The Reality of Evil & The Armor of God
Jesus, His disciples, and other New Testament writers had no doubt that Satan and demons were real, powerful, spiritual entities. Jesus Himself encountered Satan when tested in the desert right after His baptism (Matt. 4:1-11). He drove demons out of many people (Mark 1:34) and commanded a Legion of demons to depart from the man in Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). The disciples drove out many demons (Mark 6:12). The apostle Paul was very aware of demons (Rom. 8:38). Even the Pharisees believed in the existence of demons (Matt. 9:34, 12:24).
So if people believed in the existences of Satan and demons in Jesus’ time, why do so many people today have a problem taking Satan and demons seriously?
Perhaps it’s because society and media go out of their way to either trivialize or sanitize all spiritual things. God is portrayed as a benevolent grandfather or perhaps as someone who is just there to keep score like a Santa Claus who’s “making a list and checking it twice.” Angels are portrayed as beautiful, feminine creatures or perhaps as some invisible power, totally unlike the picture we see in the Bible.
With Satan and demons, the deception is even worse. We dress up Satan in a red suit and give him horns and a pitchfork. Comedians laugh and say, “The debbil made me do it!” The FOX network program “Lucifer” portrayed Satan as the character Lucifer Morningstar, “who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell and resigns his throne and abandons his kingdom for the beauty of Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.”
Really? Jesus would have strongly disagreed with these depictions.
As you can see, our society has tried to neuter the power of all spiritual beings. But I assure you that they are real. Because the spiritual realm is real. Because Satan is real. Because demons are real. Because evil is real.
Now, the reality of evil is much easier for us to grasp than evil’s ultimate source. I think that’s because we can intellectually divorce evil deeds from the spiritual origin of evil. We recognize evil when we see it without having to admit that there is a realm beyond the physical one which empowers the evil we see. So while we talk about evil, we are powerless to do anything about it. It takes some spiritual understanding to understand where evil comes from and how we are to defend against it today.
STANDING FIRM AGAINST EVIL
The point I’m trying to make is that while Satan, demons, and evil are all very, very real, their reality has its roots in the spiritual domain. And while we need to fight against evil whenever and wherever we see it, our ultimate battle is spiritual.
The book of James tells us that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7), and while we will have skirmishes as we live our lives in the here and now, the main battlefield involves spiritual warfare. In the prayer that Jesus prayed just before he was betrayed and crucified, He asked that God protect us from the evil one (John 17:15). Jesus knew it would take God’s spiritual power for us to be protected from Satan’s spiritual power.
So how do we stand firm, and how do we claim God’s protection from Satan, demons, and evil?
The apostle Paul wrote about this while he was under house arrest in Rome. He steps through what the problem really is, where the battle is really fought, and how Christians should “armor up” in order to wage that battle. This teaching is found in Eph. 6:10-18. Let’s take it one step at a time and see what Paul advises.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (v. 10). This verse sets the stage for what follows. It is not our strength that will win the battle, and it is not our power that is brought to bear. Rather, we are to be strong “in the Lord” and rely on “His mighty power.” That doesn’t mean we do nothing, only that the Lord is the foundation for all that is done. As humans, in and of ourselves we are totally powerless over Satan and his demons. That might be a new thought for some of you, because our society teaches that we are to be self-sufficient and that if there’s something to be done, we are the ones who have to do it. Not so with spiritual matters.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (v.11). The phrase “take your stand” comes from a military term meaning “stand your ground.” That implies we have territory to protect – what God has given us as territory – and that God gives us the tools we need (“full armor”) to stand that ground. It is also obvious that it is “the devil’s schemes” that are infringing on that territory.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (v. 12). Our battle isn’t a physical one (“against flesh and blood”) but against four things:
Rulers. Those who have power over us in one form or another, perhaps those in government or other institutions. The people who rule may themselves have wonderful motives or may have evil motives. Either way, they are influenced by what is evil and that influence distorts whatever good may come from their rule. I only need to point you to the current political race for President for you to see this with clarity.
Authorities. Those from whom we get our notions of what is right and what is wrong. You know what I mean. We hear “authorities say that …” and it carries weight with us. But as these authorities depart from the true authority of Scripture and the principles of God, their pronouncements turn towards evil.
Powers. That which immediately exerts power over us. Some of the powers over us are innocuous, like the rule that we drive on the right side of the road. Many others attempt to force or coerce us into things we don’t support: taxpayer funding of abortions, baking wedding cakes for gay people, accepting transgender and people of opposite gender in our rest rooms. The list is endless.
Spiritual Forces of Evil. The ultimate source of evil, which resides in the spiritual realm and empowers the other three against whom we battle. Note that to stand against this force, we must make our stand in the spiritual realm from which it comes.
Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (v. 13)
This verse doesn’t say “if” the day of evil comes but “when.” What follows in verses 14-17 are six examples of spiritual weapons we have to arm ourselves with. Remember that the apostle Paul was in Rome under house arrest when he wrote this. He was guarded by a Roman soldier, and he makes the analogy between the physical armor of the soldier and the spiritual armor God has provided to every believer.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (v 14-17).
Belt of truth. All elements of God’s armor are important, but it is significant that truth is mentioned first. Truth is the antidote for false teaching and false authority. Always keep His truth first and foremost in your minds. We are promised that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things (John 14:26) and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Let Him do so!
Breastplate of righteousness. Not our own righteousness, because in and of ourselves we have none. (Eccl. 7:20). This phrase refers to the righteousness that God gives to believers through faith (Rom. 3:22). His righteousness is able to protect us much like a breastplate protected a Roman soldier. As we develop and exercise our faith in Him, the difference between us and the rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces becomes more evident. We are better able to distinguish what comes from Him and what is coming from these evil powers no matter how subtle those powers may be.
Gospel of peace. The gospel is the good news that Jesus has bridged that infinitely wide gap between us and God and that His kingdom has been announced, inaugurated, and demonstrated by His teachings and actions. While it hasn’t yet come in fullness, the kingdom of God is here in embryo, and all that are His can embrace it and begin to live in ways that advance His kingdom further. The fact that we are not isolated from Him due to our sins or left to fend for ourselves without His kingdom all around us is a source of great peace, which gives us stability when we stand our ground.
Shield of faith.Our faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8) which we grow (2 Thes. 1:3) as we deepen our trust in Him and respond more fully to His initiatives in our lives. Paul likens this faith to a shield that is able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one, enabling us to stand against whatever evil Satan may throw at us. It is said that we become like that to which we are devoted. As we are more fully devoted to Christ, we become more like Him and less like the world around us. We are able to see the evil one’s “flaming arrows” for what they are and consequently defend ourselves from them.
Helmet of salvation. And what great salvation we have! When we know with certainty our ultimate destiny, we gain assurance that our present trials and troubles are only momentary things. This empowers our minds to keep the actions of the evil one in proper perspective as well as to keep our main focus on following Christ. This protects our minds much like a soldier’s helmet would protect his head.
Sword of the Spirit. This is explicitly described as “the word of God,” which sounds a lot like what is written in the book of Hebrews. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb. 4:12). Isn’t this what Jesus did when Satan tempted him in the wilderness? He “stood His ground” by replying to Satan’s taunts with scripture. We should do the same, but in addition to that, will we let His word judge our own thoughts and attitudes of the heart? When we do, we more clearly see the difference between God’s activity and the evil intentions of dark, evil forces. When we submit to the correction of His word, we allow ourselves to be conquered by Him, and we are defended from all evil forces.
But we’re not done yet. Those six elements of God’s armor are essentially defensive weapons. Weapons of protection so that we can stand firmly and hold the territory that God has given to us. The offensive weapon is described in the next verse.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Eph. 6:18). With the elements of God’s armor we are on the defensive. With prayer we go on the offensive! We are to make “all kinds of prayers and requests,” and we are encouraged to pray continually for all believers.
We are instructed in scripture to pray boldly (1 John 5:14-15), persistently (Luke 18:1-8), and fervently (Heb. 5:7). We are to attack evil in our prayers, whether that evil is in us or in society around us. Prayer avails much (James 5:16). It is God’s will and God’s desire that we pray. Let’s go to our knees and get to it!
What I’ve just written may or may not be making much sense to you. It can be difficult to switch our thinking from the physical to the spiritual. It requires a different way of “knowing,” As I wrote in an earlier article, God can give you that kind of knowing. All you have to do is ask. He tells us if we seek Him with our whole heart, He will be found.
If you’re ready to do that, I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“God, if you are real, make Yourself real to me.”
That’s it. Nothing fancy, just a simple prayer from the heart.
For those who already know God, I urge you to take some time today – and the beginning of every day – to put into practice the concept of “armoring up” with the tools God has given us to stand our ground against Satan, demons, and evil. They are not going away any time soon, but neither is God! He is our steadfast and constant help in time of trouble. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Take heart, my friends. It is really God who is fighting the battles. Let us draw close to Him, and as we do, He promises to draw close to us.
If you would like to continue our conversation, drop us an email at SaltRadioMinistries@gmail.com. I especially invite you to do so if you said that simple prayer to ask God to be real to you. We’d love to hear from you!