Historically, In Ephesians 2:2 – 3, Christians have seen three distinct enemies in Paul’s description of our life before Christ, enemies we still wage warfare with even now: the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh…” (Ephesians 2:2-3a)
“The course of this world” refers to societal and cultural forces opposed to Jesus and His Kingdom. For example, our cultural love for material goods would fit in this category.
The “passions of our flesh” are those internal struggles you and I battle every day. While Christians now are Spirit(ually) empowered to overcomes these fleshly desires, the battle will rage on until Jesus’ return.
The third distinct enemy we see Paul list is, likely, the one the we think of last, “the prince of the power of the air”. Most commentators and scholars throughout the centuries have identified this prince as the Devil, or Satan.
Let’s stop there for a moment. Are you aware that your battle is on all three of these fronts? My fleshly battle is something I’m intimately familiar with. And my Spirit-empowered resistance to cultural forces is put to test every time I log into Netflix.
But when’s the last time you considered that the source of your discouragement, anger, or despondency, was, potentially, from the Devil?
See, in 1 Peter 5:8-9 we read:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world .
Peter says our adversary is “like a roaring lion”. How many of us, knowing we were going to encounter a lion at some point in our day, would leave the house unprepared? Untrained? Unaware?
Just as if we knew we were going to encounter a physical lion at some point in our day, every Christian must be ready (every day) in two ways to respond to our adversary.
Be Prepared for Attack
First, Peter says “Be sober-minded; be watchful”. Be alert! Don’t be sleeping! Let me ask you: have you been lulled to sleep when it comes to the reality of our spiritual adversary? Assumed that he’s a creation of Christianity that has long since evolved? Have other, worldly, concerns made you dull to the repetitive refrain of the Scriptures, “We’re in a battle! Don’t concern yourself with civilian affairs”?
Being “sober-minded and watchful” does not mean we are looking for a demon under every rock, but instead is a way of living in this world that simply believes that what the Bible says about this present age is true.
Resist Him, Firm in Your Faith
Second, Peter says, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” In other words, don’t let the lies, accusations, and perverse thoughts of the enemy simply wash over you. Resist Him. Mindful of his existence, knowing he’s on the prowl, now resist.
We can resist the devil in a number of ways:
First, if you have Jesus’ Spirit living inside you are no longer enslaved to the Devil and the acts that belong in his “domain of darkness”. It is possible for you to live in righteousness. Further, if you have been made alive in Christ, you’ve been given a degree of authority in the spiritual realm to, like Christ, can say, “Be gone, Satan!” (Matt. 4:10)
In Matthew 4, Jesus resists the lies of our adversary by quoting the truth of Scripture back to Him. Jesus, so familiar with the “real-deal” of God’s truth, is able to sniff out the fakes being offered to him.
Finally, resisting the devil is best done in community. We need other mature, wise, and gifted brothers and sisters to help us in our resistance. Questions like, “Is this demonic or just bad pizza?”, or, “Is there any interconnectedness between my own sin, personal history, and what the adversary is doing?” are questions to be explored within the Church. Also, like lions in the wild, our enemy generally seeks to devour those on the fringes of a local church community, those who are already suffering, and those who are content to remain isolated. We need each other.
A Historical and Global Precedent
Peter’s encouragement that, “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” might immediately strike us as strange. But, think about it, it’s actually wildly helpful, especially to us modern readers. In essence, Peter is saying:
Do not be overwhelmed by the reality of a lion-like adversary. What you’re experiencing has been, and will be, true of each and every Christian until Jesus’ returns.
So, like our brothers and sisters before us, let us remind ourselves today of the security we have in Christ. Let us put on our armour daily (Ephesians 6:10-20), and join the battle that’s already been decisively won in Christ (Colossians 2:13-15).