Though we are no longer of the world, we remain in it, on guard, at work. The church has the job of training us in sound doctrine (4:12-16) to defend us against our spiritual foe and to equip us to advance against the kingdom of darkness, as Christ builds His church through us as His instruments.
This is the third installment of a five-part series on spiritual warfare. For further study see my two books on the subject: Warfare Witness: Contending with Spiritual Opposition in Everyday Evangelism (Christian Focus, 224 pages) and What is Spiritual Warfare? (P&R Basics of the Faith Series, 44 pages). Links to the previous installments can be found here and here.
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8, ESV)
In his letters Paul highlights an important principle for the conduct of spiritual warfare. Though implied in Ephesians, the apostle makes it explicit in his second letter to the church at Corinth: “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Spiritual warfare is waged in weakness as we defer to Christ, rest in Christ, and draw strength from Christ. When we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10). The boast of weakness is Christ, and is expressed in humility, submission and dependence. James puts it this way:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:6–8)
For Paul our weakness is expressed through prayer and Christ’s power is accessed through prayer. The two prayers recorded in Ephesians are pleas for power. In Ephesians 1:19-20 Paul prays that we would know the “immeasurable greatness” of God’s power that raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him over any adversary. In Ephesians 3:16 and 20 Paul prays that we would be strengthened with the power of Christ at work within us.
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