8. Paul Fights the Good Fight of Faith -- Spiritual Warfare

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Giuseppe Obici (1807-1878), statue of ‘St. Paul,’ courtyard of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome. Carrara marble.
Giuseppe Obici (1807-1878), statue of 'St. Paul,' courtyard of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Rome. Carrara marble.

You may find a lesson on spiritual warfare strange for a study of St. Paul. But if we try to understand the Paul's ministry in purely human terms we'll get it wrong. Yes, there is Paul the man, with his strengths and weaknesses.

But to understand Paul, we must grasp that he is at war, with the angels of heaven at his back. The Acts of the Apostles is, at its base, a power-struggle between Christ and Satan, wrenching whole peoples away from Satan's grasp. Take another look at Paul's commission:

"17b I am sending you to [the Gentiles] 18  to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:17b-18)

Because out-and-out spiritual war is so foreign to the spirit of our age, it is important that we step off the track of the Acts narrative in this lesson to dig deeper into this aspect of Paul's ministry. And it is appropriate that we take this detour right after Paul's ministry in Ephesus, since it is the location of some of Paul's greatest victories, but also of some of his greatest struggles.

Paul often describes these conflicts with Satan as struggles, employing terms from both military battles and struggles in the athletic arena:

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does." (2 Corinthians 10:3)

"Fight the good fight.[307]" (1 Timothy 1:18b)

"Fight the good fight[308] of the faith." (1 Timothy 6:12a)

"I have fought the good fight." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Though some naïve and biblically-illiterate Christian brothers and sisters may deny it, you and I are at war too. The enemy seeks to attack us and bring us down and frustrate Christ's mission through us (1 Peter 5:8-9). We'll explore that in this lesson.

8.1. Understanding the Dominion of Darkness

Most of the time we've been spiritually blind. War? What war? Demons? What demons? But unless we become sensitized to the nature of the battlefield as the Bible portrays it, spiritual warfare won't have much meaning.

Satan's Dominion on Earth

Let's consider some New Testament scripture. Paul tells the Colossians of a rescue operation conducted by Jesus.

"13  For he has rescued[309] us from the dominion[310] of darkness
and brought[311] us into the kingdom[312] of the Son he loves,
14  in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

In Satan's domain there is slavery and guilt of sin. In Jesus' Kingdom there is manumission from slavery and forgiveness from sins. We have been "brought from death to life" (Romans 6:13, cf. John 5:24; Hebrews 5:7; 1 John 3:14).

Jesus refers to Satan as "prince" (NIV, KJV) or "ruler" (ESV, NRSV, Greek archōn)[313] of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The apostle John acknowledges that "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).

Usurped Authority

But this is not a legitimate authority granted by God. Some people I greatly respect talk about Satan's "legal rights" over us, because we fail to claim our rights. But that doesn't give Satan legal right. Rather, it is usurping authority that is not one's own. "Usurp" is a wonderful English word meaning, "to seize and hold in possession by force or without right."[314]

God has created us. We are his by creation, whether or not we have acknowledged it.

"The earth is the LORD's,
and everything in it,
the world,
and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1)

God did not deed us over to Satan. As the songwriter puts it:

"This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet."[315]

Satan has taken what is God's, what is not Satan's own. He is not in submission to God, but a rebel, a usurper of God's authority.

Nevertheless, whether legitimate or not, Satan is able to exert power until it is taken away from him, usually forcibly. There's a saying, "Possession is nine tenths of the law," meaning that ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, or difficult to enforce if one does not. Satan is a "squatter" on God's property and must be forced off. Christ won the decisive battle on the cross (Colossians 2:14-15) and we have power through the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit to claim people for Christ's kingdom -- that's what spiritual warfare is about.

Satan Is Still Dangerous

But the enemy is still in the field fighting a guerilla war. He is a "thief" who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10a) what is God's. He retains power by deception, as "a liar and the father of lies" (John 10:44b). Truth dispels darkness and seriously weakens the devil's hold on people.

However, Satan is not impotent, he's dangerous. The Apostle Peter warns us to take this battle seriously, comparing Satan to a dangerous lion, notorious in the Palestinian hill country for ravaging cattle and humans alike.

"Your adversary[316] the devil prowls around[317] like a roaring lion, seeking[318] someone to devour[319]" (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).

I've heard preachers belittle Satan's power. ("He just roars. He has no teeth. He'll gum you to death.") That is both silly and irresponsible -- and it misses what Peter is saying here entirely. Lions are deadly; lions kill and destroy; lions eat whatever prey they can kill. That's Peter's point.

But, Peter tells us, "Resist[320] him, firm in your faith" (1 Peter 5:9a). We have the power to resist him, to stand up to him. We don't have to run; he does! James says, "Submit yourselves ... to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee[321] from you" (James 4:7). Stay alert!

Q1. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Psalm 24:1) What is the difference between legitimate authority and usurped authority? Which kind of authority does Satan have? How can Satan be defeated at the cross (Colossians 2:14-15), but still be dangerous (John 10:10a, 44; 1 Peter 5:8-9)?

The "God of this Age" (2 Corinthians 4:4)

We've reviewed what Jesus, John, Peter, and James say about the devil's power. Now let's see Paul's perspective. It is spelled out in three primary passages (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12). Here's the first:

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Blinding means "to deprive of sight."[322] People think they see clearly, but they don't get it. Their minds[323] seem veiled[324] (2 Corinthians 4:3). They can't comprehend the gospel. It doesn't make sense to them. Instead of seeing in the gospel "the glory of Christ," it seems to them like a mere fairy tale.

But it isn't always and only "the devil made me do it."[325] Very often, people don't believe simply because they don't want to, since true belief will require surrendering to Christ and repenting of sins, some of which we might like. We can't claim to be innocent unbelievers; rather we are culpable and responsible for the truth we have heard.

Satan blinds us by deceiving us. So long as we believe his lies, we remain blind. Laying hold of the truth in Jesus sets us free (John 8:31-32). Preaching dispels this darkness. That is why Satan opposes Paul's preaching so viciously. More on that in a moment.

The Prince of the Dominion of the "Air" (Ephesians 2:2)

In another important passage, Paul explains to the Ephesians our former spiritual state.

"[You once were] following[326] the prince (archon) of the power (exousia) of the air,[327] the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 2:2, ESV)

The Greeks saw heaven as the abode of the gods, earth as the abode of humans, and the air as the abode of the demons.[328] I think this is Paul's reference -- to Satan as the prince of demons. Period. This doesn't mean that the devil is the rightful ruler of this realm, only that he is the current ruler. Notice that this "prince" is a "spirit, spirit being" (pneuma), not a flesh-and-blood ruler.

Let's examine two additional words:

"Prince" (ESV, KJV), "ruler" (NIV, NRSV) is archōn, "one who is in a position of leadership," especially in a civic capacity. Here, "one who has eminence in a ruling capacity, ruler, lord, prince."[329]

"Power" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "kingdom" (NIV) is exousia, which refers basically to a state of control, right to act or decide. There are several shades of meaning of exousia which flow from this basic idea.

  1. Power, potential or resource to command, control or govern, "capability, might, power,"
  2. Authority, the right to control or command, warrant, authority.
  3. Ruling power. By extension, "power exercised by rulers or others in high position by virtue of their office, ruling power, official power,"
  4. Authorities. Concretely, "bearer of ruling authority, of both human "authorities, officials, government," as well as transcendent powers,
  5. Domain. Finally, "the sphere in which power is exercised, "domain" ("domain of darkness," Colossians 1:13).[330]

Of course, the word exousia doesn't mean all of these things in any particular verse. The specific meaning in any verse is determined by context. In Ephesians 2:2, exousia probably has the idea of "government authority," or the power that is exercised in the domain of the "air."[331]

Principalities and Powers (Ephesians 6:12)

Now let's go to the third key verse, one that includes some of the same words we've just met.

"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." (Ephesians 6:12)

Paul seems to indicate four groups as our opponents, maybe some kind of hierarchy of demonic powers, we're not sure. Some interpreters see "rulers" and "authorities" as earthly governmental powers. Perhaps, but I think it's more likely that Paul is talking in this verse exclusively of spiritual powers. However, these powers energize and direct flesh-and-blood rulers who persecute believers in the physical world.

1. "Rulers" (NIV, NRSV), "principalities" (KJV) translate Greek archē (from which we get words such as "archbishop") which means "ruler, authority, official."[332] It is from the same root as archōn, "prince," that we saw in Ephesians 2:2 and John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.  Archē can be used of good rulers as well as bad. The idea here is that some of the "rulers" in the spiritual realm are demonic in their allegiance.[333]

2. "Authorities" (NIV, NRSV), "powers" (KJV) translate the plural of Greek exousia, which we examined in Ephesians 2:2 above. When the words archē and exousia  are used together in the New Testament ("principalities and powers"), they always seem to refer to the evil spiritual powers (1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 15; 1 Peter 3:22).

3. "Powers of this ... world" (NIV), "cosmic powers" (NRSV) or "rulers ... of this world" (KJV) is Greek kosmokratōr which means "world-ruler." But the world here is described as "darkness," in other words, Paul is describing here the "rulers of this sinful world."[334]

4. "Spiritual forces of evil" (NIV, ESV, NRSV) or "spiritual wickedness in high places" (KJV) is Greek pneumatikos, "pertaining to the spirit, spiritual," here pertaining to evil spirits.[335] Notice the words to which "spiritual" is appended: "evil" and "heavenly realms" (epouranos, "heavenly").[336]

Paul reminds us, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood" (ESV), but against spiritual enemies in the heavenly realms. Yes, evil people oppose us, but they are servants and dupes of Satan and his evil spirits. That's the nature of the battle as Paul and the New Testament writers see it.

Satan's Limitations

Paul clearly believes that Satan is active in his world and is behind the struggle and persecution that Christians experience. However, we're not to "see a demon behind every bush." We must realize that, even though Satan has power in this world, his power has serious limitations.

  1. Satan is not the opposite of God. God is omnipotent, that is, all powerful. Satan is not. He is a perhaps a fallen archangel,[337] powerful, but a created being, not nearly God's equal.
  2. Satan can't tempt or influence without God's permission (Job 1:10, 12, 16, 19).
  3. Satan can't physically harm or kill without God's permission (Job 2:2-6), though he has some power of death (Hebrews 2:14).
  4. Satan can't force believers to do anything (Acts 26:18).
  5. Satan can't read our thoughts, nor is he omniscient, that is, all knowing; only God can know a person's heart (1 Kings 8:39; Matthew 9:4; Psalm 94:11; 147:5; 139:2).
  6. Satan isn't omnipresent, that is, present everywhere at the same time. Only God is omnipresent (Psalm 121:3; Proverbs 15:3). Satan roams and sees and hunts, but isn't always present (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8).
  7. Satan can't harm God's people in any vital or eternal sense  (Luke 10:19-20; 21:18; 1 John 5:18).

Terror isn't appropriate. However, being alert to Satan's devices is always important.

Understanding Opposition to the Gospel

Now that we've examined the nature of the enemy, the persecution that Paul and his associates experience while preaching the gospel makes sense. Satan is trying to stop and silence them -- kill them, if he can.

  • Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail in Philippi (Acts 16:23).
  • Paul's opponents start a riot in Thessalonica, forcing Paul to flee (Acts 17:5-9).
  • Paul's opponents stir up the crowds in Berea, forcing Paul to flee again (Acts 17:13)

Satan hates the gospel. He tries anything he can to prevent the spread of the gospel, since the good news of Jesus sets people free from his control. He makes people feel bad about "proselytizing" and shuts them up with the fear that they'll offend someone and appear "intolerant." Friends, these are lies of the devil, deceptions! We must not let Satan's deceptions keep us quiet!

As we'll see as this lesson progresses, sharing and preaching the gospel to lost people is spiritual warfare, pure and simple. It is bringing the truth of Jesus to dispel the darkness and lies that have kept people in Satan's bondage for so long. And when Satan's dominion is attacked, we shouldn't be surprised that he counterattacks.

This is war, dear friends. And it calls for courage and faith on our part. No wonder it is so hard to share your faith sometimes. You are engaged in spiritual warfare, and often don't realize the dimensions of it.

The Weapons of our Warfare

Hopefully, you can see the battlefield now for what it is. For Satan, this is a life and death struggle for dominance. He'll use every trick he has. So what are our weapons of warfare? Paul says:

"The weapons[338] of our warfare[339] are not merely human,[340] but they have divine power to destroy[341] strongholds."[342] (2 Corinthians 10:4, NRSV)

Strongly fortified forts or walled cities seemed impenetrable in the ancient world, except through long sieges by determined armies, and large, specialized equipment of one kind or another used to scale a wall, or to breach it -- and after the victory, ropes and cables to literally pull it down to prevent that city from defending itself in the future.  Paul says that our weapons are not physical, but have equivalent power in the spiritual realm to pull down and destroy the defenses of the most fortified of military installations. In other words, our spiritual weapons are of the most powerful kind known in spiritual warfare. Some of them we don't even recognize as weapons against Satan. But it would be well to take an inventory of our spiritual arsenal.

8.2. The Gospel as a Spiritual Weapon

As we've seen, Satan does everything possible to prevent Paul from preaching the gospel. Why? Because of its raw power to change lives. Paul wrote to the Romans:

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)

Hebrews says:

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

It is as Jesus told his followers:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31b-32)

The first building block in setting people free is a foundation of truth. And that takes preaching or communicating or witnessing -- in a word, evangelizing.

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14)

Saving faith is built upon truth.

"Faith comes from hearing,
and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)

Some people are fond of reciting a saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

"Preach at all times and, when necessary, use words."

Of course, our lives must be consistent with our message! But it's questionable that St. Francis ever said this. None of his earliest biographers include the line. And St. Francis himself was constantly preaching -- in up to five villages a day, often outdoors. He would stand on a bale of straw or some steps of a public building and preach to whoever would gather.

Declaring the good news is "the sword of the Spirit, the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17b), in Paul's analogy of putting on the full armor of God. 

Preaching -- declaring the good news of Jesus from pulpits, in the marketplace, and from house to house -- is a vital weapon in the arsenal of the kingdom. Your personal witness to what Jesus has done for you is a form of declaring the good news. Satan will try to prevent you, by making you afraid of opening your mouth. But do so anyway, relying on the Spirit of God. Don't sheathe one of your most powerful weapons because your enemy tells you to.

Q2. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; John 8:44) What are Satan's chief tools to keep people under his control? Why is the sharing and preaching of the gospel so threatening to him (John 8:31-32; Romans 1:16)? Why do you think it is so difficult to share your faith or preach in the world outside the church?

Repentance as Spiritual Defense from Demonization (2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:25)

If preaching the truth is a powerful weapon, so is repentance. The issue is that men and women are held captive by Satan (Acts 26:18). How can they be set free?

The Gospels use a Greek verb daimonizomai,[343] variously translated "demon-possessed" (NIV), "possessed with devils" (KJV), "demoniacs" (NRSV). A better translation might be "oppressed by demons" (ESV) or perhaps "demonized," that is, afflicted to one degree or another by a demon.

Paul talks about the influence of Satan in a fascinating passage we just looked at.

"1  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1-3)

I see demonization on a continuum, rather than a "possessed" or "not possessed" judgment. The continuum might look something like this (though you might disagree a bit with the order):

  1. Temptation.
  2. Yielding to temptation occasionally.
  3. A pattern of giving in to temptation. This is what is primarily described in Ephesians 2:1-3.
  4. A compulsion to sin, a kind of addiction to sinning.
  5. Sinning without being any longer aware of it, such as being a "pathological liar," having a "seared" conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).
  6. An illness that is caused by a demon, which we see sometimes in Jesus' ministry. This would be related to a demonic attack, perhaps suffered in a time of weakness, such as in childhood.
  7. Complete inability to resist temptation at all, thus complete or nearly complete "possession" or control by a demon. The Gadarene demoniac might be an example of this (Mark 5:1-20).

I believe that the early stages of demonization, perhaps steps 1, 2, and 3, and often 4, can successfully be treated by truth followed by repentance and subsequent obedience to the truth. Paul talks about this:

"God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." (Romans 2:4b, ESV)

"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation." (2 Corinthians 7:10b)

"... In the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 2:25b)

Neil T. Anderson, then at Talbot School of Theology, helped us understand this with his significant book, The Bondage Breaker (Harvest House, 1990). In his biblical counseling practice he saw many people freed from symptoms that looked very much like demon oppression or possession. When people grasp the truth of the gospel, and embrace it -- thus repenting of their former beliefs that have kept them in bondage -- they become free in Christ.

There is certainly a place for people who have a "deliverance ministry" of casting out demons, as we'll see shortly. But the first step in spiritual warfare is to repent of all known sin, and ask forgiveness.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

If you have to do this a thousand times, so be it. Jesus will change you as you come to him for help.

When you examine Paul's ministry, he doesn't hesitate to cast out demons when necessary, but this is rare in our accounts of his ministry (Acts 16:16; 19:12), though we can assume that the exorcism attempt of the seven sons of Sceva was in imitation of Paul's practice of exorcism while in Ephesus (Acts 19:13-16). What we see primarily is how Paul deals with the demonic pagan religions entrenched in Ephesus and Corinth and elsewhere. He does it by defeating error with truth and thus bringing repentance.

Forgiveness as a Spiritual Weapon (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

If repentance towards sin is a spiritual weapon, so is repentance toward blame and hurt. Another word for this is forgiveness. Of course, forgiveness was an important theme for Jesus. Forgiveness is the fruit of one who has himself or herself been forgiven (Matthew 6:12, 14; 18:21-35). So also for Paul.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

But we must understand that forgiveness is very much a spiritual weapon against Satan. In a discussion Paul is having with the Corinthian church about someone who had apparently sinned against him and was now being excluded from the church, Paul appeals to the church to forgive the person.

"10  If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven -- if there was anything to forgive -- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11  in order that Satan might not outwit[344] us. For we are not unaware[345] of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

One of Satan's "schemes" (NIV), "designs" (ESV, NRSV), or "devices" (KJV)[346] is to so bind us up in anger that we become spiritually crippled, unable to pray. Unforgiveness is anger that is retained, grudges that remain unforgiven. Paul reminds the Ephesians of wisdom from Psalm 4:4. Then he admonishes them:

"26  'In your anger do not sin':
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
27  and do not give the devil a foothold."
[347] (Ephesians 4:26-27)

In your own personal war with the devil, don't allow him a place or a foothold in your life by holding onto anger, grudges, hurts, and wrongs done to you. Jesus was able to say about "the prince of this world," that, "He has no hold on me" (John 14:30), literally, "hath nothing in me" (KJV). When we give Satan an internal platform to operate through unforgiveness -- or for that matter, any unconfessed sin -- then he can continually attack us from within. We must give up those places within us through repentance and faith!

Yes, forgiveness is hard. But being continually attacked by the devil because we won't forgive is even harder. Forgiveness is a defensive weapon related to the power of love.

Q3. (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 4:26-27) How do you think anger and unforgiveness give Satan an opportunity to damage you? For you, who is the most difficult person to forgive? Why is your unforgiveness more damaging to you than to the person who hurt you?

8.3. Praise and Prayer As Spiritual Weapons (Philippians 4:4-9)

There's another kind of spiritual warfare -- prayer and praise -- that brings about the defeat of the enemy. This may seem strange to you, but Paul teaches about this practice in some depth to the Philippian church (Philippians 4:4-9).

Nine hundred years before Paul, we see praise and prayer as the key to King Jehoshaphat's victory over the combined armies of Moab, Ammon, and Edom in the Judean wilderness. When Jehoshaphat hears that the armies are coming, he prays publicly in the temple for God's mercy.

"We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Then Mattaniah the prophet speaks out to the assembly in the temple courtyard.

"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow march down against them... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you." (2 Chronicles 20:15-17a)

So the army assembles and marches toward the enemy, but with a difference.

"Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: 'Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.' As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated." (2 Chronicles 20:21-22)

As they are singing and praising in faith, God is working.

It reminds me of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, who are "praying and singing hymns to God" when the earthquake strikes that sets them free (Acts 16:25-26, Lesson 5.2).

Rejoice in the Lord Always (Philippians 4:4-5)

In Paul's Letter to the Philippians, Paul teaches on rejoicing and prayer.

"Rejoice[348]  in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:4-5)

This isn't just a just an empty encouragement to "be happy" or "have a good day." Paul commands them to rejoice "in the Lord." Rejoicing is not merely a passive, spontaneous reaction; as a command, it is to be a deliberate action. Praise is faith shouting: It is true! Praise is the language of faith.

Notice that this rejoicing is not to be occasional, but constant, continual -- "always." Just as we are taught to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we are to "rejoice evermore" (1 Thessalonians 5:16, KJV).

Cure for Anxiety (Philippians 4:6)

After the command to rejoice, Paul turns toward more general teaching about finding God's peace when there is turmoil churning around you. Peace in the midst of conflict.

"Do not be anxious[349] about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present[350] your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

Rather than focus on their anxiety, Paul tells them to pray very specifically.

  • "Prayer" is the Greek noun proseuchē, "petition addressed to deity, prayer."[351]
  • "Petition" (NIV) and "supplication" (KJV, NRSV) is the Greek noun deēsis, "urgent request to meet a need, exclusively addressed to God, prayer."[352]
  • "Requests" is the noun aitēma,[353] from the verb aiteō, "ask for, demand."

The words are fairly close synonyms.[354] So we are to spell out our needs and requests before God in prayer -- specifically, clearly.

Now comes a vitally important key. Our prayers are to be made in the midst of giving thanks. "Thanksgiving" is the Greek noun eucharistia, "the expression or content of gratitude, the rendering of thanks, thanksgiving."[355]

God doesn't like whiney, self-pitying prayers any more than you like your children to come to you with that attitude. Whining is a symptom of both unbelief and self-centeredness. Instead, Paul tells us to pray "with thanksgiving." That is, we are to offer our prayers to God in the midst of an attitude of remembering God's faithfulness, love, and power in past situations, and thus, an expectation of his answer in this situation. Thanksgiving is the language of faith.

God's Peace Will Guard Your Mind (Philippians 4:7)

Paul is teaching us how to deal with anxiety. The first lesson is to rejoice. The second is to bring our anxieties to God -- with thanksgiving. The third lesson is to trust God to guard your mind.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Anxiety is the antithesis of peace.[356] Here is God's promise concerning peace: When you pray with thanksgiving, God's peace will guard[357] your heart[358] and mind.[359] And this peace, Paul says, goes beyond your rational understanding and thought processes.[360]

Think About These Things (Philippians 4:8)

There's a final element to Paul's instruction: (1) rejoice, (2) pray with thanksgiving, (3) let God's peace guard your mind and heart, and finally, (4) turn your thoughts to good things. Part of faith is mind control. You can let fear overwhelm you. Don't. Don't go there. You must learn to discipline your mind and what you think about.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about[361] such things." (Philippians 4:8)

In verse 8, Paul lists eight things to prompt healthy thought patterns. Find something, he says, that fits one or more of these characteristics, and think about one or more of those virtues.

Put into Practice These Lessons (Philippians 4:9)

The only way this works is to actually do it. "Put it into practice,"[362] Paul says. It's all in the execution -- and God can help you with that.

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me -- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)

Paul reminds the Philippian believers to remember how they saw him and Silas react under great pressure, and encourages them to follow the example they see.

Q4. (2 Chronicles 20:15-17a, 21-22; Acts 16:25-26; Philippians 4:4-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) What do praise and thankfulness have to do with faith? Why do you think praise and thankfulness are such powerful weapons in our warfare?

Intercessory Prayer as a Spiritual Weapon

In the last several decades there has been considerable teaching about serious and sometimes intense intercessory prayer as a tool to "soften up" the enemy in regions that have been heretofore "gospel resistant." Pete Wagner tells of one such experience in Resistencia, Argentina, a city very resistant to the gospel, where an intercessory team was sent into this city to pray earnestly for a full year prior to an evangelistic campaign. When the preaching began, God won an amazing breakthrough in this once gospel-hardened city.

One aspect of this kind of prayer may include "spiritual mapping," understanding some of the historical events and present practices in a region that may contribute to the spiritual bondage, and then praying against it.[363]

As we'll see below, after putting on all the spiritual armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-17, we are commanded to,

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18)

8.4. Signs and Wonders and Exorcisms as Spiritual Weapons

As we've seen in Lesson 3.3, Lesson 3.4, and Lesson 7.3, one of the ways Paul defeats the Satanic powers is by signs and wonders coupled with declaring the gospel. Jesus often casts out demons. It is dramatic. Exorcism is perhaps the most obvious spiritual weapon: a face-down with a demon or demons that are afflicting precious people that Christ died for. As we've seen, Paul casts out demons as a matter course in Ephesus -- that's why the sons of Sceva are trying to copy his technique.

Jesus often performs miracles, as well. Miracles attract attention, but true faith comes when people hear and believe the word of God that is preached to them. Miracles are not sufficient to produce saving faith, but they get the gospel a hearing. Miracles are some of the "big guns" that "demolish strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4) of the enemy.

Here are some of the instances when Paul uses signs and wonders to defeat the enemy and see a spiritual breakthrough:

  • Paul blinds the sorcerer Elymus (Acts 13:11-12), and the proconsul is won to Christ on Cyprus.
  • Paul performs miracles in Iconium (Acts 14:3-4).
  • Paul heals a crippled man at Lystra (Acts 14:8-18).
  • Paul performs many signs and wonders in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12).
  • Paul raises Eutychus from the dead in Troas (Acts 20:8-12).
  • Paul heals the sick on Malta (Acts 28:8-9).

Paul spoke about signs and wonders as part of his ministry:

"... By the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum,[364] I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ." (Romans 15:19)

"The things that mark an apostle -- signs, wonders and miracles -- were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

"Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction." (1 Thessalonians 1:5a)

Of course, the apostles exhibit a ministry in signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:12). But not just apostles. Stephen "did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). In a chapter on gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Corinthians church, Paul distinguishes gifts of healing, working of miracles, and faith from other gifts (1 Corinthians 12:9-10). He also distinguishes between apostles and healers (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).

There is a teaching in our time among "cessationists" that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased or passed away in the time of the apostles and were needed only to establish the church. Now that the New Testament canon is established, they say, we don't need miracles, since we have the word of God.

It sounds good, but it is not taught in Scripture. In fact, just the opposite is taught. We are to expect miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12). The only time limit on spiritual gifts is the return of Christ, "when the perfect comes" (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). In fact, church history is full of miracles. And the 20th century saw an amazing revival of miraculous gifts and "power evangelism." This has been instrumental in the evangelization of China, Africa, and Latin America. A recent Christianity Today article examines reports of people being raised from the dead and concludes that God is still raising people from the dead in our day.[365]

Spiritual gifts are some of the weapons in our spiritual arsenal. If you are a pastor, seek God for these gifts, since your church needs them to win your community to Christ. But they aren't just for pastors. Seek out who in your congregation may have these gifts. Ask God to guide you. Encourage the gifts. Teach on spiritual gifts. Don't quit until God begins to work through your congregation in signs and wonders! If we learn anything from the book of Acts and Paul's life, it is that signs and wonders are one piece of how the church advances and wins people to Christ. To ignore that is to fail to train your people in the use of some of the church's most powerful spiritual weapons.

8.5. The Whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Relying on God's Strength (Ephesians 6:10-13)

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, written from prison, Paul uses the armament of the Roman soldier he is chained to as an analogy of the spiritual armor that every Christian needs.

"Finally, be strong[366] in the Lord and in his mighty power.[367] Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:10-11)

  The key to spiritual strength is to tap into "his mighty power." The way you do this is to equip yourself with all the means of strength Christ has given you. "Put on[368] the full armor[369]  of God," rather than go out to battle with only part of your equipment on. If you dress fully for battle, you can then "take your stand[370] against the devil's schemes."[371] Without full protection, we're likely to get beaten up.

Paul reminds us that we fight against spiritual entities in the heavenly realms, not humans. We examined verse 11 and 12 thoroughly at the beginning of this lesson. Verse 13 reads:

"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." (Ephesians 6:13)

What is victory? Is it to swashbuckle our way across the hordes of hell and capture Satan himself? No. But it certainly is to remain standing at the end of the battle. On Sunday when I ask an elderly gentleman at church, "How are you?" and he'll reply, "I'm still vertical." That's the idea. This is victory: to hold our ground, to stand our ground, not to give in, not to give up. To remain standing at the end of the conflict.

One of my interests is American Civil War history, especially the great battles of Gettysburg, Antietam, and Sharpsburg. The army that is left standing in possession of the battlefield at the end of the day is the victor, even though it may have been wounded and taken serious casualties. The armor of God is designed to help us to stand. Jesus said,

 "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33, KJV)

The Nature of the Armament (Ephesians 6:14-17)

Now Paul spells out the elements of spiritual preparedness, working from the analogy of a Roman soldier's attire.

"14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."( Ephesians 6:14-17)

Let's look at these.

The belt[372] of truth. Think of the wide belt that the weight lifter wears to protect and strengthen him.

"If you hold to my teaching," Jesus said, "you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). When we don't know any better, the "father of lies," the "great deceiver" can hoodwink us and get the better of us. But when we hold firmly to the truth that we know and seek diligently to acquire wisdom, we are protected. This is a good piece of equipment to put on in the morning with a regular reading of the Scriptures.

The breastplate of righteousness. The steel, leather, or coat of mail breastplate of the Roman soldier protected his torso in the thick of battle. Our protection is righteousness. This is two-fold. First, we have been declared and made righteous by Christ's death on our behalf (imputed righteousness). We are "holy" and "set apart." We are "saints." We belong to God now. His righteousness is our righteousness, and his blood covers our sins. We stand in Christ.

But this righteousness must not be only imputed righteousness from Christ. We are also protected by living holy lives, by obedience, by walking in God's ways righteously. When we do that we deprive the devil of a "foothold" (Ephesians 4:27) from which to attack us further.

Footgear -- "your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." Strong footgear[373] is important in a battle situation. If we wear flip-flop or thong sandals instead of Army-issue boots, we may slip, leaving ourselves exposed to the enemy. But shod feet are also an offensive weapon, enabling us to be ready to run with and share the gospel of peace.

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news," (Isaiah 52:7a)

The shield[374] of faith, "with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Before battle, soldiers would soak their leather shields in the local creeks. This made them much heavier, but also made them impervious to the flaming arrows shot by the enemy. A shield is both a defensive weapon to hide behind, as well as an offensive weapon that enables you to strike with your sword hand while protecting your body with the shield held in the other.

Sometimes we have devastating circumstances that come upon us like a flaming arrow and threaten to overwhelm us, our family, and our whole position in life. We can react with fear and terror. Or we can put up the shield of faith and start to trust God when all hell breaks loose. When you're attacked, put up the shield of faith; don't let it hang uselessly at your side.

The helmet[375] of salvation. Helmets protect the head, hence battle helmets, bicycle helmets, hard hats, and the like. Our salvation from God protects us against self-doubt and fear that God won't forgive us when we mess up. If you're not sure of your salvation, discuss this with a pastor who will give you some counsel and scripture to help you receive the assurance from God that you need to resist Satan. Remember, you are not saved by your own good works, but by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The sword of the Spirit, "which is the word of God." The sword[376] is both offensive and defensive. We parry our enemy's blows with our sword, as well as thrust home when we see a weakness in his defense. Our sword is God's Word. When we study the Bible for its principles and truths, we can stand against Satan's lies. When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, he answers Satan's half-truths with Scripture (Luke 4:1-13). Reading the scripture often, studying it, and committing key verses to memory are all ways to sharpen this sword, so when we are attacked we'll be able to respond. And when we find opportunities, we can share the gospel.

Pray in the Spirit. With this, Paul transitions from the military analogy. We studied verse 18 previously in this lesson.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18)

Perhaps the military analogy for prayer in our day would be, "Carry your walkie-talkie so when you get in trouble, you can call in for directed firepower." Prayer means staying in touch, but also includes intercessory prayer for others.

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand... and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:11, 13)

If you're a peaceful person -- and I hope you are -- then getting into a wartime mentality may be difficult for you. I once had a confirmed pacifist in a congregation who found this very hard to grasp. It may seem to go against your very values! But to understand Paul, and how he approaches his mission, you must understand the nature of the conflict with the devil and learn how to approach it, so you are not neutralized in fear and passivity, but energized by faith and reliance on the Spirit's leading. We are in a war, but that doesn't mean we must feel beleaguered. Nor must we be grim warriors. Rather, we rejoice and can march with confidence, knowing that Christ is at our head.

We learn how to do this from the example of the Apostle Paul, who tells us:

"I urge you, then, be imitators[377] of me." (1 Corinthians 4:16, ESV)

"You should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1, NLT)

You may not know quite how to do this, but follow Paul's example and the example of spiritual people in your congregation, and you'll learn.

Lessons for Disciples

There are a number of lessons for disciples here.

  1. Paul describes our struggles with Satan in militaristic terms -- "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12). In other places he pictures rescuing people from "the dominion of darkness" and placing them in the "Kingdom of God" (Colossians 1:13). Paul's ministry is wrapped up in spiritual warfare.
  2. Satan is described as the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), but he doesn't have legitimate authority, only usurped authority. For "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1). Satan is a squatter on God's property.
  3. Though defeated at the cross (Colossians 2:14-15), Satan is still dangerous (John 10:10, 44; 1 Peter 5:8), though we have the power to resist him (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7). He is not God's equal, but a created being, with nothing even resembling God's power.
  4. Satan has blinded people so they can't grasp the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
  5. Our human opposers and persecutors are not the real source of our struggle. It goes beyond them to spiritual powers in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 6:12).
  6. Since preaching the gospel exposes Satan's lies, he opposes it vehemently. The gospel message is powerful (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17b) and freeing (John 8:31-32), but requires people to proclaim it (Romans 10:14, 17).
  7. Truth brings repentance, which is powerful in that it frees us from following Satan blindly (Romans 2:4b; 2 Corinthians 7:10b; 2 Timothy 2:25b). For many cases of demonization, casting out demons isn't necessary; repentance will affect the deliverance.
  8. Forgiveness is a spiritual weapon to outwit Satan's schemes (2 Corinthians 2:10-11) and keeps him from having a foothold in one's life (Ephesians 4:26-27).
  9. Praise and prayer are spiritual weapons (2 Chronicles 20:15-17a, 21-22; Acts 16:25-26;  Philippians 4:4-9). We are to rejoice always, pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17), and through this find peace. Intercessory prayer is also vital (Ephesians 6:18).
  10. Signs and wonders are spiritual weapons to grab attention to the gospel. Though they don't produce saving faith, they open eyes to the truth (Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5a). They are signs of apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12), but also for other servants of God (Acts 6:8; 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28-30).
  11. Paul uses a Roman soldier's armament as an analogy for full spiritual preparation for battle, putting on "the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18).

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Jesus, thank you for rescuing us from Satan's power and transferring us into the Kingdom of God. Help us to understand and learn to wield the spiritual weapons you give us so that they might both protect us and help rescue others who are blindly following the deceiver. In your powerful name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"I am sending you to [the Gentiles]  to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:17b-18, NIV)

"Fight the good fight of the faith." (1 Timothy 6:12a, NIV)

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14, NIV)

"The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1, NIV)

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

"[You once were] following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2, ESV)

"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." (Ephesians 6:12)

"The weapons of our warfare are not merely human,  but they have divine power to destroy strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:4, NRSV)

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16, NIV)

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14, NIV)

"Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17, NIV)

"If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven -- if there was anything to forgive -- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:10-11, NIV)

"'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27, NIV)

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4, NIV)

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18, NIV)

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV)


[307] The noun "fight" here and in 2 Corinthians 10:4 is strateia, "military engagement, expedition, campaign" (BDAG 94). The verb fight is strateuomai, "do military service, serve in the army," then, by extension, "to engage in a conflict, wage battle, fight," in both 1 Timothy 1:18 and 2 Corinthians 10:3 (BDAG 94, 2).   

[308] In both 1 Timothy 6:12a and 2 Timothy 4:7, "fought" is originally in the context of athletic games, "to engage in a contest," then is used generally as, "to fight, struggle." Agōnizomai (from which we get our word, "agonize"), BDAG 17. "Fight" is agōn, "a struggle against opposition, struggle, fight" (BDAG 17).

[309] "Rescued" (NIV, NRSV), "delivered" (ESV, KJV) is rhyomai, "to rescue from danger, save, rescue, deliver, preserve" (BDAG 908).

[310] "Dominion" (NIV), "domain" (ESV), "power" (NRSV, KJV) is exousia, "authority," then, "ruling power," here, "the sphere in which power is exercised, domain," also Luke 22:53; Ephesians 2:2 (BDAG 353, 6).

[311] "Brought" (NIV), "transferred" (ESV, NRSV), "translated" (KJV) is methistēmi, "transfer from one place to another, remove" (BDAG 625, 1a); in classical Greek, "to transpose, transfer, remove from one place to another," properly, of change of situation or place (Thayer 395).

[312] "Kingdom" is basileia, "kingship, royal power, royal rule," the word used the phrase "Kingdom of God" in the Gospels (BDAG 168, 1bδ).

[313] Archōn, is "one who is in a position of leadership," especially in a civic capacity. Here it refers to "one who has eminence in a ruling capacity, ruler, lord, prince" (BDAG 140, 1c). The Jews referred to the devil as Beelzebub as the "prince of demons" (Matthew 9:34; 12:24, etc.).

[314] Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary (2003).

[315] "This Is My Father's World," poem by Maltbie Davenport Babcock, 1901), set to music by Franklin L. Sheppard in 1915.

[316] "Adversary" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "enemy" (NIV) is antidikos, originally the plaintiff or accuser in a lawsuit, then "one who is continuously antagonistic to another, enemy, opponent" (BDAG 88, 1 and 2).

[317] "Prowls" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "walketh" (KJV) is the very common verb peripateō, "walk, go about, walk around" (BDAG 803, 1).

[318] "Seeking" (ESV, KJV), "looking for" (NIV, NRSV) is zēteō, "try to find something, seek, look for" in order to find. Here, "be on the search for look for, search out someone" (BDAG 428, 1c).

[319] "Devour" is katapinō, "drink down, swallow, swallow up," in our literature frequently in imagery, used both of liquids and solids. Here it means, "to destroy completely," in the figure of one devouring or swallowing something. "Devour" (BDAG 524, 2a).

[320] "Resist" in both 1 Peter 5:9a and James 4:7 is anthistēmi, literally, "set against," here, "be in opposition to, set oneself against, oppose" (BDAG 80, 1a).

[321] "Flee" is pheugō, "to seek safety in flight, flee" (BDAG 1052, 1).

[322] "Blinded" is typhloō, "to deprive of sight, to blind" (BDAG 1021).

[323] "Minds" is noēma, "the faculty of processing thought, mind, understanding" (BDAG 675, 2).

[324] "Veiled" (NIV, NRSV), "hid" (KJV) is kalyptō, "to cause something not to be known, hide, conceal, keep secret" (BDAG 505, 2b).

[325] The saying, "The devil made me do it," was part of a comedy routine by  American comedian Clerow "Flip" Wilson, Jr. (1933-1998).

[326] "Following" isn't in the text. Literally, the Greek reads "in which you once walked, according to ...."

[327] The "air" (aēr) here probably refers to "the space above the earth, sky, space, air" (BDAG 23, 2b).

[328] Aēr, BDAG 23, 2b.

[329] Archōn, BDAG 140, 1c.

[330] Exousia, BDAG 35.

[331] For more on this, see, C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers: How the New Testament Church Experienced the Power of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare (Regal Books, 1996); C. Peter Wagner and F. Douglas Pennoyer (editors), Wrestling with Dark Angels: Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare (Regal Books, 1990).

[332] Archē, BDAG 137-138.

[333] We believe (though the scripture is pretty silent here) that Satan was once an archangel who rebelled against God and was thrown, with the angels under his authority (perhaps a third of heaven's angels), out of heaven (Revelation 12). We call these rebel angels "demons" or "evil spirits," though that terminology was mainly used by Jesus in the Gospels, not so much in Paul's writings. We see in a hint of this in Daniel 10:12-13, 20, where Daniel relates an experience in which Michael the archangel was delayed in answering Daniel's prayer because of a battle with "the prince of the Persian kingdom."

[334] Kosmokratōr, BDAG 561.

[335] Pneumatikos, BDAG 837.

[336] Since Hitler's day, it is common to hear people try to make Paul's words refer to the evil social structures of his time -- institutionalized evil -- and translate the Greek word epouranos as "high places," but this doesn't really fit the context here. (Though there is such a thing as institutionalized evil that must be resisted!) We have seen the word "heavenly realms" (epouranos) used a number of times in Ephesians, always concerning spiritual realities (Ephesians 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). Paul is speaking here about spiritual wickedness in the unseen, but very real, spiritual sphere in which we presently dwell.

[337] Both passages that suggest Satan is a fallen archangel are found in prophecies that are speaking explicitly of Middle Eastern rulers, the king of Babylon, and the king of Tyre (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19). Since the Bible doesn't clearly link these prophecies to Satan, we should be careful not to be dogmatic about their meaning and linkage.

[338] "Weapons" is hoplon, "any instrument one uses to prepare or make ready, tool," here, specifically, "an instrument designed to make ready for military engagement, weapon" (BDAG 716, 2b).

[339] "Warfare" (KJV, ESV, RSV), "we fight with" (NIV) is strateia, "military engagement, expedition, campaign" (BDAG 947), used here and at 1 Timothy 1:18, "fight the good fight."

[340] "Human" (NRSV), "of the world" (NIV), "of the flesh" (ESV), "carnal" (KJV) is sarkikos, "pertaining to being material or belonging to the physical realm, material, physical, human, fleshly" from sarx, "flesh." Here it has the sense, "pertaining to being human at a disappointing level of behavior or characteristics, (merely) human." (BDAG 914, 2).

[341] "Destroy" (ESV, NRSV), "demolish" (NIV), "the pulling down" (KJV) is kathairesis, "causing destruction by tearing down, destruction" (BDAG 487, 1), "demolition" (Thayer, p. 311).

[342] "Strongholds" is ochyrōma, "a strong military installation, fortress," from ochuroō, "to fortify" (BDAG 746).

[343] Daimonizomai, "be possessed by a hostile spirit" (BDAG 20).

[344] "Outwit" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "get an advantage" (KJV) is pleonekteō, "to take advantage of, exploit, outwit, defraud, cheat someone" (BDAG 824, 1b).

[345] "Ignorant" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "unaware" (NIV) is agnoeō (from which we get our word "agnostic"), "to be uninformed about, not to know, be ignorant (of) (BDAG 13, 1a).

[346] Noema, "that which one has in mind ... design, purpose, intention" (BDAG 675, 1b).

[347] "Foothold" (NIV), "opportunity" (ESV), "room" (NRSV), "place" (KJV) is the common noun topos (from which we get our word "topographical), "place," here, "a favorable circumstance for doing something, possibility, opportunity, chance" (BDAG 1012, 4).

[348] "Rejoice" is the Greek verb chairō, to be in a state of happiness and well-being, "rejoice, be glad" (BDAG 1074-1075).

[349] "Be anxious" (NIV, ESV), "be careful" (KJV), and "worry" (NRSV) is the Greek verb merimnaō, "to be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned" (BDAG 632).

[350] "Present" (NIV) and "let be made known" (NRSV, KJV, ESV) is the Greek verb gnōrizō, "to cause information to become known: make known, reveal" (BDAG 203).

[351] Proseuchē, BDAG 878-879.

[352] Deēsis, BDAG 213.

[353] Aitēma, "request" (BDAG 30). "What is" or "has been asked for" (Thayer 18).

[354] O'Brien, Philippians, pp. 492-493. Here proseuchē probably has a particular reference to the "supplication" or "petition" the Philippians offer on their own account, especially from circumstances that cause anxiety. Deēsis occasionally stresses the sense of need, though here is used synonymously with proseuchē.

[355] Eucharistia, BDAG 416.

[356] "Peace" is the Greek noun eirēnē, means first, "a state of concord, peace, harmony," then "a state of well-being, peace," corresponding to the Hebrew noun shalom, "welfare, health," then "messianic salvation" (BDAG 287-288).

[357] "Guard" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) and "keep" (KJV) is the Greek verb phroureō, generally, "to provide security, guard, protect, keep" from phrouros, "a guard" (BDAG 1066-1067).

[358] "Hearts" is the noun kardia, from which we get our English word "cardiac." It means, "heart" as the seat of the physical, spiritual and mental life (as frequently in Greek literature). In the New Testament it is often thought of as the center and source of the whole inner life, with its thinking, feeling, and volition (BDAG 508-509).

[359] "Minds" is the noun noēma, "thought" (that which one has in mind as a product of the intellectual process). Or it could refer to the "mind, understanding" (BDAG 675).

[360] "Transcends" (NIV), "passeth" (KJV), "surpasses" (NRSV, ESV) is the Greek verb hyperechō, "to surpass in quality or value, be better than, excel" (BDAG 1033).

[361] "Think about" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) and "think on" (KJV) is the Greek verb logizomai, primarily a mathematical and accounting term, then of cognitive processes. Here it means, "to give careful thought to a matter, think (about), consider, ponder, let one's mind dwell on something" (BDAG 598).

[362] "Put into practice" (NIV), "practice" (ESV), "keep on doing" (NRSV), and "do" (KJV) is the Greek verb prassō, "do, accomplish," to bring about or accomplish something through activity" (BDAG 860).

[363] C. Peter Wagner, Breaking Strongholds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective, and Targeted (Baker, 1993).

[364] Illyricum is a Roman province in the northwest part of the Balkan peninsula, along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, northwest of Macedonia, in the area of modern-day Yugoslavia.

[365] Craig Keener, "Do the Dead Still Rise?" Christianity Today, June 2019, pp. 46-50. The author is a professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.

[366] "Be strong" is endynamoō, here, "to become able to function or do something, become strong" (BDAG 333, 2b). This is a compound verb, from en-, "remaining" or "motion into" + dynamoō, "make strong, enable." Our English word "dynamo" is related the root of this word.

[367] "Mighty power" (NIV), "strength of his might" (ESV), "strength of his power" (NRSV), "power of his might" (KJV) has two keywords: kratos, "ability to exhibit or express resident strength, might" (BDAG 565, 1b), and ischus, "capability to function effectively, strength, power, might" (BDAG 484).

[368] Endyō, "put on, clothe oneself in, wear" (BDAG 333-334), which we saw in 4:24 -- "Put on the new self...."

[369] Panoplia, "the complete equipment of a heavy-armed soldier, full armor" (BDAG 754), from hoplon, "implement, weapon," and pan, "all."

[370] "Take your stand" (NIV), "stand" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) is histēmi, a very common verb, "to desist from movement and be in a stationary position, stand still, stop," then specifically, "to stand up against, resist" (here in verse 11), and "stand firm so as to remain stable, stand firm, hold one's ground" (as in verse 14) (BDAG 483, B1, 3, and 4).

[371] "Schemes" (NIV, ESV), "wiles" (NRSV, KJV) is methodeia (from which we get our English word, "method." The Greek word means, "method," though in the New Testament it is only used in an unfavorable sense: "scheming, craftiness" (Ephesians 4:14), plural "wiles, stratagems" (Ephesians 6:11-12) (BDAG 625).

[372] Zōnnumi, "to gird. "The girdle is an item of military equipment, e.g., as a broad leather band for protection, as an apron under the armor, as a belt studded with metal, or as a sign of rank" (Albrecht Oepke, hoplon, ktl., TDNT 5:292-315).

[373] Hypodeō, "to furnish with footgear." "The Roman legionnaires wear half-boots with strong soles" (Albrecht Oepke, hoplon, ktl., TDNT 5:292-315).

[374] Thyros, "probably a long oblong shield (shaped like a door, thyra) (BDAG 462). "The thyreos is the ancient four-cornered long shield.... The rectangular Greek shield is almost a portable wall [and] covers the whole person, which poses the hard problem of reconciling strength with lightness. The Romans take over a later form of the long shield around 340 BC and retain it until the days of Constantine, who reverts to the round or oval form" (Albrecht Oepke, hoplon, ktl., TDNT 5:292-315).

[375] Perikephalaia, "helmet," also 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (BDAG 802). "Greek soldiers wear bronze helmets, as do the Romans. The helmet is slung on a strap during marches and put on for battle" (Albrecht Oepke, hoplon, ktl., TDNT 5:292-315).

[376] Machaira, "a relatively short sword or sharp instrument, sword, dagger," also used figuratively of the Word of God in Hebrews 4:12 (BDAG 622).

[377] "Imitate" (NLT), "be imitators" (ESV, NRSV), "follow my example" (NIV), "be followers" (KJV) is the noun mimētēs, "imitator" (BDAG 652, a), both in 1 Corinthians 4:16 and 11:1.

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