Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently spoke at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference. During his remarks, he said he would lead the charge to fight “the left’s schemes” and then alluded to Ephesians 6:10-18.
“It ain’t going to be easy. You got to be strong. You got to put on the full armor of God. You got to take a stand — take a stand against the left’s schemes. You got to stand your ground. You got to be firm. You will face flaming arrows, but take up the shield of faith and fight on,” DeSantis said.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church in Ephesus, wrote:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,” (Ephesians 6:10-18, ESV).
While Christians should correct and rebuke leftist ideology where it contradicts scripture, Ephesians 6 is not a call to arms for the culture war. That is a fundamental misuse of this passage.
Ephesians 6 does not describe preparation for a fight against a political ideology but preparation for spiritual warfare.
DeSantis calls out the “schemes of the left,” but the Apostle Paul calls us to “(p)ut on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil,” (v. 11, ESV emphasis mine).
Satan is an accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He has come to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Satan is also described as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He wants to mislead, corrupt, deceive, steal, and lead believers astray. Can he do this using ideology? Indeed, the point is that we are to stand against Satan’s schemes and what they might do to us, not do no-holds-barred political battle against the humans who advocate those particular ideologies.
If Paul didn’t make that clear enough, in verse 12, a verse that DeSantis completely bypassed, he said, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” (v. 12).
In verse 12, there is some disagreement about precisely who are “rulers” and “authorities” Paul addresses. Some believe they are ranks within Satan’s army. Some do not. In his commentary on Ephesians, the late James Montgomery Boice wrote, “I think he is using terms which take the powers that are arrayed against us together. The distinction is not between the supposed levels of demonic authority but rather between the various areas of life over which they exert an evil influence.”
Whatever those terms mean, the primary point is that our battle is with those exerting evil influence, and those forces are in the spiritual realm.
In his commentary on Ephesians, John Calvin wrote, “Our natural disposition would lead us to direct all our exertions against the men themselves; but this foolish desire will be restrained by the consideration that the men who annoy us are nothing more than darts thrown by the hand of Satan. While we are employed in destroying those darts, we lay ourselves open to be wounded on all sides. To wrestle with flesh and blood will not only be useless, but highly pernicious. We must go straight to the enemy, who attacks and wounds us from his concealment, — who slays before he appears.”
Our battle is spiritual, not political, so that we “may be able to withstand in the evil day,” (v. 13 emphasis mine).
So what’s the evil day? I don’t think it’s just one day. I believe Paul refers to whenever Satan attacks, whenever we are tempted. So it’s also not a matter of “if,” but “when.” And we need God’s help when the attack comes because we can’t overcome it ourselves.
Martin Luther points to this in his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God:”
Did we in our strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
From age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.
When will Satan attack us with his schemes? Boice, in his commentary, pointed to William Gurnall’s work called The Christian in Complete Armour pointed out six instances when Christians are at their most vulnerable:
- When the Christian is newly converted.
- When the Christian is afflicted.
- When the Christian has achieved some notable success.
- When the Christian is idle.
- When the Christian is isolated from others, who share his faith.
- When the Christian is dying.
This is all about our ability to stand, to persevere, when attacked by Satan and his cosmic forces.
It’s not about us being strong. It’s about trusting Him, who is strong enough to help us overcome.
We see this in James, “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. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you,” (James 4:7-10, ESV).
We can only resist the devil and his schemes if we submit to God. Only until we humble ourselves before the Lord will he exalt us. The victory is His, not ours.
To withstand this attack, we need God’s armor.
Again demonstrating that this spiritual, not political warfare, look at the armor that is provided (Ephesians 6:14-17), which is defensive:
- The belt of truth: This is God’s truth. Satan will lie to us, so we need to wrap ourselves with the truth of God’s word.
- The breastplate of righteousness: Not our righteousness, we have none, but Christ’s.
- Shoes that are the readiness given by the gospel of peace: The is God’s peace, God’s gospel. Are we ready to proclaim God’s gospel of peace?
- Shield of faith: The faith that God instills. We trust in God as Satan throws fiery darts (or arrows depending on your translation) at us.
- The helmet of salvation: This is God’s salvation. Paul uses this imagery in another passage where he speaks of us putting on “a helmet the hope of salvation,” remember, Satan is a deceiver? He will attempt to convince us that we are not saved.
Then we come to our only offensive weapon.
We are to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (v. 17, ESV). Paul refers to the written word of God (rhema), not Jesus as the Word of God (logos).
How is this weapon to be used. We can look at Matthew 4:1-11 as Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan.
Satan approaches Jesus after he fasted 40 days and nights.
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loves of bread,” he said to Jesus.
Jesus replied, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Satan then took Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus then replied, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
The third and final temptation Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” (v.9).
Satan then states, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus rebuked Satan and said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”
Then Satan fled.
“It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.”
Three times Jesus is tempted, and three times he counters with the written word of God.
In this instance, Jesus does not use scripture to slay Satan but to parry his blows (temptations).
Scripture is powerful. “For the word of God is living an active, shaper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).
The word of God does this. We do not. All we need to do is pick it up, know it, study it, memorize it, and believe it.
It’s not meant to smite our enemies, but, again, to provide a defense.
“If we are to resist Satan and find the convicting, converting, and consoling words of God that we need to live and triumph as Christians, we must take the words of God into our minds and hearts. We must pick up the sword of the Spirit and wield it forcefully,” Boice wrote.
Then we also can’t forget that Paul wrote we are to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication,” (v. 18).
“Having instructed the Ephesians to put on their armor, he now enjoins them to fight by prayer. This is the true method. To call upon God is the chief exercise of faith and hope; and it is in this way that we obtain from God every blessing,” John Calvin wrote. “We are exhorted to persevere in prayer. Every tendency to weariness must be counteracted by a cheerful performance of the duty. With unabated ardor we must continue our prayers, though we do not immediately obtain what we desire.”
The Apostle Paul then asked for prayer to be bold in sharing the gospel (v. 20).
We are to resist, we are to stand, so that we may persevere, that is the context of Ephesians 6. It describes our battle with temptation and doubt, not the culture war.