Picture Ephesians 6:12 - "12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." 

One of the church’s greatest demands is to discern between the spiritual struggle and other social, personal, and political difficulties. If not, individual believers and groups become too easily detoured, “wrestling” with human adversaries instead of prayerfully warring against the invisible works of hell that are so busy behind the scenes. 

The word "Wrestle", means to throw or swing. It is a contest between two opponents that continues until one hurls the other one down and holds him down.  The term is used of hand-to-hand combat, emphasizing the personal and individual nature of spiritual warfare waged against each Christian, local church and the Church universal. We are not engaged in a human, physical warfare. 

Wrestle Flesh and blood, of course, refers to humanity, which is not the church’s adversary, at least, not directly. It is true that spiritual influences and entities manifest themselves through people, who sometime are aware of it and are a willing vessel;  or sometimes through people who are unwitting and ignorant vessels of these influences and entities.  

The word against presents the idea of a personal foe, face-to-face and hand-to-hand conflict to the finish, a life and death struggle. Paul is not describing a Sunday school picnic. But against principalities. Principalities refer to the high-ranking hierarchy of demonic authority.Powers. Invested with authority. Rulers of the darkness of this world. The world rulers in revolt against God and limited to “this darkness” here on earth. Spiritual wickedness. The army of invisible wicked spirits. In high places. The sphere of this conflict is in the heavenlies, where life in Christ is lived (2:5–6).  So, the Church's real battle is directly withprincipalities (demonic rulers), powers (authorities), rulers (world-rulers), spiritual wickedness (wicked spiritual beings), in other words, fallen angels, demons, and Lucifer himself.  

When faced with setbacks, people often tend to blame God for their circumstances, or other people, or even themselves.  Granted that sometimes we are "our own worst enemy", and the fault for many of our own problems may be a result of our own doing, however, Scripture urges us to consider another, more sinister source for troubles.  Paul called them “principalities” and “powers” in the heavenly places. Our struggle is not against God or other people but against “spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Eph. 6:11–12).

There is certainly a place for human responsibility, but Paul is telling us that ultimately, people are not our enemy, sin and Satan are.  That is what those of us must remember, who are involved in the PPB movement, or perhaps some other activists causes, such as the Pro-Life movement, Protection of Natural Marriage or any kind of Godly movement that is supported by the Scriptures!  Although it is people who appear to be the enemy, they are only surface obstacles.  The real enemy is deeper and more hidden, simply using these human vessels as their instruments of warfare, and many times, as distractions.  Distractions from the root of the cause which is in the spiritual realm.  If we intend to stand up to the onslaught of these powerful adversaries, we must fight them on their own turf—the spiritual—with weapons appropriate to the conflict (see Ephesians 6:14–18).

Of course, it can be very difficult to persuade people of that in this day and age. Secular thinking dismisses all talk of the supernatural realm as mere superstition from the ancient world.  People who openly stand up and speak out against God, the Bible, Godly principles and God's holiness and righteousness, so many times do not even realize, in fact, they even scoff at the idea that they are being used as pawns in an eternal game of destiny, that really isn't a game and has eternal consequences.

Nevertheless, the Bible is very clear-cut. It declares that evil forces exist in the spiritual realm that have a substantial influence on the world and human events.  Again, they are known as “principalities.” 

Sometimes the presence of evil powers is evident, as in demon possession (see Luke 11:14). However, Satan and his hosts have numerous other ways to influence human activity and carry out their ultimate purpose, to incarcerate people away from God. For example, two means through which they can work are:

Belief systems. Philosophies and worldviews have a powerful effect on the way people live. By introducing lies into the very principles upon which entire societies are based, the evil one can wreak incredible havoc on the world.  

For example, consider the beliefs that fueled Nazism. Eventually they led to the most destructive war in history, which claimed tens of millions of lives. They brought about extermination camps in which millions of Jews and others were slaughtered. They disrupted entire nations and economies. Indeed, even today we still are seeing some of the repercussions of that dark era.

And again, just look at what has happened to our public school system, overall, since prayer and the Bible were removed from their rightful place, which extended to the moral degradation of the nation as we are seeing it today!  Just as Abe Lincoln declared, "the philosophy of the classroom in one generation, will be the philosophy of government in the next."

Let me reiterate that none of this is to suggest that humans are excused from responsibility. However, behind the visible, knowable element of human choice, one can detect or at least suspect the activity of forces with supernatural ability and evil intent, prompting people to accept and act on falsehoods.

That’s why we cannot be too careful about the ideas we embrace, whether they come from religious teachers, educators, government leaders, or the media. Ideas have consequences, both in individual lives and entire nations. Our best protection against deception is a grounding in biblical truth (Eph. 6:14).

Human institutions and leaders.  Human systems and people in authority make ideal targets of Satanic activity because of their influence on others. In the first century, one has only to consider the character and especially the spiritual choices of such groups as the Pharisees (Matt. 23:13–15, 31–36), the Jewish council (Acts 7:51–60), the Herods (see Acts 12:1–2), Caiaphas (see Matt. 26:3), Pilate (John 18:37–38; 19:10–11; 1 Cor. 2:8), and the Caesars, especially Nero (see Acts 25:12), to appreciate the counterattack that Satan must have launched after the coming of Christ and the founding of the church.

Scripture asserts that human authorities are established by God to carry out good purposes (Rom. 13:1–7). But because they are operated by humans, they are vulnerable to the influence of evil spiritual forces.

Paul knew that all too well. As he wrote the Ephesians, he sat chained to a Roman soldier for no other crime than the preaching of the gospel (Eph. 6:19–20). On another occasion, he instructed Timothy, the pastor at Ephesus, to have the people pray “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” because God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

There are many other ways in which the powers of darkness attempt to subvert the purposes of God. It can sometimes be pointless for us to try to determine at any moment whether something is being “caused” by a wicked spiritual power. A preoccupation with that can, in fact, lead only to foolish guesswork.

Paul gives us a far more positive, constructive strategy for “standing firm” against our spiritual enemies: “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11). That armor is made up entirely of spiritual weapons: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer (6:14–18).  

Make no mistake about it, we are fooling ourselves if we think that re-introducing the freedom of prayer and Bible reading in the public school system is not going to be a fierce battle.  It will be very taxing.  However, by learning to wear and to wield these powerful armaments, we can resist the carefully laid plans of the devil and, when the fight is over, still be standing.

1 Thess. 5:17 - "Pray Without Ceasing"

Next:  Is It A Winnable War?

Michael Parnell, B.Th.

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