I love this passage. It clearly sets the cosmic scale of the conflict we find ourselves in – well beyond what we can see. It has brilliant images of the armour and weapons God gives us. They not only keep us safe as we take our stand but take the fight to the enemy with the sword of the Spirit: the word of God. They remind us how a Roman soldier’s weapons and armour were designed for close formations, standing together. Their spiritual equivalents win battles when we stand together too.
But I almost missed an incredibly significant bit. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (v12). It’s not against people – not even people who are hostile towards us because we are God’s people. It’s for them.
Jesus died for us while we were still God’s enemies (Romans 5:8). He comes looking for the sheep that are lost. He doesn’t want anyone to perish (Matthew 18:10-14). We don’t use our swords to harm our enemies. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God – the message of reconciliation – the gospel of grace and forgiveness. Jesus asks us to plead with people on his behalf to be reconciled with him – to move from enemies to friends (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Our battle “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” is for the freedom of all they hold captive.
Interestingly, their escalating problems of persecution by their Roman rulers were not overcome by force, but when emperor Constantine heard the gospel and became a Christian.
Will I let the gospel of reconciliation be the Spirit’s sword in my hand?
Written by David Cornell