Rulers

by Mike Ratliff

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. (Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV)

As many of you know, Rick Warren did not personally speak at the Desiring God conference. Instead, a video of him speaking was presented. I have not watched it yet, however, I will do so tomorrow and probably report on it from that. One of my friends has already done this and has said, “Rick Warren’s Lecture at the Desiring God Conference was a circus of Blatant Bible Twisting and Pelagianism. John Piper owes us an apology and must publicly rebuke Warren for his false teaching” I intend to watch both Rick Warren’s lecture or sermon or whatever it is tomorrow as well as listen to my friend’s sermon analysis, but until then I must focus on where God has had me over the last few days. I have been studying the Greek words in Ephesians 6:10-20 pertaining to the “whole armor of God,” et cetera. As I thought through this in light of what is going on with Rick Warren at the Desiring God pastor’s conference this concept of ἐνδύσασθε or to put on the whole armor of God once-for-all and never take it off because it’s to our benefit things seem to come together very well. Why? The Church and God’s truth are continually under attack by our enemy. We ἐνδύσασθε this whole armor in order to stand firm in the evil day. Well, this is most definitely an evil day when truth is seen as something to be bargained away or shunned while lies and that which is only appears to be the truth is elevated as if it is the truth. Therefore, we must become discerning and wise and that means we must consistently wear this armor. 

We will focus on Ephesians 6:12 in this post, specifically on the word translated as “cosmic powers” in the ESV, which the KJV translates as “rulers.” I put the phrase in focus in bold in all four “renderings.”

Here is v12 from the KJV, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Here is v12 from the ESV, “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.

Here is v12 from the Greek New Testament, “ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις.”

Here is my translation of v12, “that not is to us the wrestling toward blood and flesh but toward the rulers, toward the authorities, toward the world strengths of the dark this, toward the spiritual of the evil in the on heavenlies.

No one is arguing that Satan is our primary enemy in the spiritual war, however, he does not fight alone. He is the commander of legions of soldiers. In v12 Paul lists four levels, or rank, in the demonic world: rulers, authorities, world strengths of darkness, and spiritual evil in heavenly places. We will focus here on “rulers of the darkness of this world.” Notice that they are rulers of “this present darkness.” This is the kingdom of darkness that is the whole realm of satanic rule, or to the darkness of ignorance and alienation from God. Both are truth. Think of all those so-called christian leaders in the world right now preaching and teaching their man-focused non-gospel calling discernment “self-righteousness” and rebuke “divisiveness.” They are the same ones who call adherence to Word of God alone as the source of truth given to the Church and doctrines such as Justification by faith, et cetera as nothing but “fundamentalism” and “legalism.” Of course, if you listen carefully to what they do preach and teach, they use Jesus’ name now and then, but it isn’t the Biblical Jesus and their focus will be on their themselves and their empires they are building. These are all examples of people being in “this present darkness” because they are in the darkness of ignorance and alienation from God because they reject the real Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and insist on their own way to a god of their own choosing.

The word translated in v12 in this phrase as “rulers” or “cosmic powers” is κοσμοκράτορας the accusative plural form of κοσμοκράτωρ or kosmokratōr. This is the only usage of this word in the New Testament. It was originally rooted in astrology, in which man and this world are supposedly controlled by the planets. However, it eventually came to refer to a broader application from the Roman emperor to pagan gods. The Ephesians, being believers in a pagan culture would have recognized the concept Paul was picturing, which is that there are indeed evil spiritual rulers on this earth.

Darkness, on the other hand, also is an emblem for ignorance, misery, and sin. What better description could there be for those who are controlled by these malignant spirits? Think of it. When you see these so-called christian leaders mockingly refer to “those reformed” guys as being so divisive, et cetera, could it be that they are blinded to the truth because they are in darkness? They brag of their advanced knowledge of how to grow churches and build spiritual kingdoms, et cetera, but it is all pelagian nonsense devoid of the power of God. It may indeed have some wicked spirits behind it, but it is not Christianity. Those controlled by these malignant spirits of darkness are ignorant of truth and clueless about God and His ways.

Ignorance of God is darkness. Puritan William Gurnall in his The Christian in Complete Armor writes: “Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan…First, ignorance opens the door for Satan to enter in with his troops of lusts. Where the watch is blind, the city is soon taken…Second, it locks up in the soul, and the soul in it. Such a one lies in Satan’s inner dungeon, where no lights of conviction comes…Third, [it] shuts out the means of recovery. Friends and ministers, yea, Christ himself stands without, and cannot help the creature.”

Therefore, we must put on the full armor of God and never take it off so we cans stand firm and not be ignorant. The ignorant are destined to fall victim to Satan’s attacks. There’s no other escape.

Soli Deo Gloria!

26 thoughts on “Rulers

  1. In my view these conferences are a waste of God’s money. We live in an age where you can purchase the CDs of all the speakers or they can post their messages on a website. There is an inordinate amount of money spent on flights, rooms, meals, and other things that could be more wisely spent. The conference phenomenon, unless it is to spend time in corporate prayer and fasting, borders on human idolatry.

    One man’s opinion without tears.

  2. Sorry Rick (and Mike), but I must disagree with your low view of conferences. There is a great deal to be said for taking several days away from home and “normal life” distractions to focus on going deeper into the Word of God and sound teaching. When I listen to a cd on the way to work I only get the message. When at a conference, I make new friends, enjoy fellowship, discuss messages and chew on their ramifications and applications. I am able to spend much more time in prayer myself and also with friends (new and old) for challenges and pains they are experiencing. The Church is not just the local body. It is good to learn and grow with others, not just my dashboard. If someone were to find themselves only being attracted to “big name” conferences and spending all their time in-between sessions trying to meet those “big names” then surely the charge of “Idolatry” would be appropriate. Myself, I wouldn’t have attended the “Desiring God” conference. I get real cautious about drinking when I smell tainted water. Maybe it’s just me…

  3. Dear Mike,
    I pulled out my old cassette tapes of Christian music (because it is too challenging to find something decent on radio, Christian or otherwise) and I ran across this song by Clay Crosse “I Surrender All”. This song packs alot of insight.
    Chorus: “I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams” – Surrendering our dreams (aka futile thinking, human imagination) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8 Then the lyrics say “If the FOCUS of MY VISION is the status I attain, my accomplishments are worthless and my efforts are in vain.” Jesus says “For what will it profit a man if he gains, the whole world, and loses his own soul?” “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:36,38
    Song “I Surrender All” written by Moffit and Hamm:
    “I have wrestled in the darkness of this lonely pilgrim land
    Raising strong and mighty fortresses that I alone command
    But these castles I’ve constructed by the strength of my own hand
    Are just temporary kingdoms on foundations made of sand
    In the middle of the battle I believe I’ve finally found
    I’ll never know the thrill of victory ’til I’m willing to lay down
    All my weapons of defense and earthly strategies of war
    So I’m laying down my arms and running helplessly to Yours
    Chorus:
    I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
    Though the price to follow costs me everything
    I surrender all my human soul desires
    If sacrafice requires
    That all my kingdoms fall
    I surrender all
    If the source of my ambition is the treasure I obtain
    If I measure my successes on a scale of earthly gain
    If the focus of my vision is the status I attain
    My accomplishments are worthless and my efforts are in vain
    So I lay aside these trophies to pursue a higher crown
    And should You choose somehow to use the life I willingly lay
    down
    I surrender all the triumph for it’s only by Your grace
    I relinquish all the glory, I surrender all the praise
    Bridge:
    Everything I am, all I’ve done, and all I’ve known
    Now belongs to You, the life I live is not my own
    Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacraficial fire
    If all I have is all that You desire
    I surrender all”

  4. What Rick is saying is so true….and people run to and fro to hear them speak, and to purchase their wares, and to help build their mini kingdoms…..and they are further and further removed from the living God….

  5. Having never been to one Joe I can only go by what you guys tell me. I watched much of the one from John MacArthur’s ministry earlier this year and I was blessed, but I was still isolated from it. I am sure it is different from being there.

  6. Heather, I think what Joe is saying about the Desiring God conference is true as well though. Also, my friend Chris from Pirate Christian Radio attends the conferences from those most certainly do not agree with so he can “get a true sense” of what is going on. It is through this that he can “read” the motives of these guys, etc. In any case, I will attempt to do some serious analysis of RW lecture today and/or tomorrow. I am not looking forward to that. However, I do have Chris’s commentary on it. :-)

  7. I also have to agree with Rick….I think that most (NOT all) go from conference to conference seeking some sort of “zap” to their spiritual life. They are unequipped to live the life once they come down from being pumped up with the hype, the products and hoopla. Reminds me of the twice yearly revivals we had when I was a kid, Spring and Fall, in which the pastor looked forward to the evangelist coming to really “give it” to the people. Scold them for not listening to the pastor, and challenge them to live for the Lord. The problem then was, not too many were truly regenerated, so they could not live a life that they had never began.
    Just my own opinions!

  8. It’s about balance. I do understand what Joe is saying. Unfortunately, most don’t go with that in mind, and we are seeing less discernment in those who blindly follow this person or that person…Those who attend with their spiritual armor in place and trust in the Holy Spirit continue to bring the good information to us, as well as the warnings! I appreciate that because it helps me to see also.

  9. What you just shared there Berean Gal is a Pastor who is all about Law instead of Gospel…That’s what you get when your theology is in any form of Pelagianism like that of Rick Warren.

  10. I have been to the “TrueChurch” conference in Alabama the last few years and I can see why some have a dim view of conferences. Yes, after each session there are usually 20-30 people (usually young men) trying to meet the “big names” of the conference while wearing an emotional look of awe on their face. But the other side of that is the 1ooo+ others who are finishing up their notes, quietly continuing in prayer, or making dinner plans with people they befriended last year. For those who believe conferences to be all hype and idolatry, may I suggest you attend a conference (one of solid repute with speakers known to be true to the Word) before painting all attendees with such a broad brush.

  11. Ignorance of God is darkness. Puritan William Gurnall in his The Christian in Complete Armor writes: “Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan…First, ignorance opens the door for Satan to enter in with his troops of lusts. Where the watch is blind, the city is soon taken…Second, it locks up in the soul, and the soul in it. Such a one lies in Satan’s inner dungeon, where no lights of conviction comes…Third, [it] shuts out the means of recovery. Friends and ministers, yea, Christ himself stands without, and cannot help the creature.”
    ********
    If I was to rewrite this, I would say “wilful ignorance”. Where one steps into wilful ignorance, shuts the door and locks up the soul.
    This individual doesn’t want to know the truth and this gives Satan a stronghold for his own activities. On the other hand, God is never barred completely, because he is God after all…though, for the time being, he will “respect” the choice a person has made and the consequences he lives with.
    I am perplexed over why a person would choose a dungeon over walking in the Light. Yes, I know…rebellion, anger, pride…but what a price!

  12. Regarding conferences, each one is different, of course. In these evil times however, as so many things they have grown more corrupt. Whenever I have done a little online research on conferences I’ve noticed that it’s not uncommon for there to be one or more speakers featured who take unbiblical positions on key issues. This is the case in both reformed and non-reformed evangelical
    camps. Even in Warren rejecting circles people like Catholic promoting Chuck Colson and Theistic Evolutionist Hugh Ross show up along side more biblically orthodox speakers.
    One more thing to consider is that these conferences must be huge money makers for the promoters and presenters. It then becomes a case of “buyer beware” for potential attendees. As I said, these are evil times.

  13. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for this–it was good. If you are in darkness do you even know you are in darkness? I think you don’t think you are…so there is no desire to change or choose differently since you are doing exactly what you desire to do.
    Thank God He opens eyes to His light and truth for without His doing it it would not be done.
    May God bless you!

  14. Charisse…I can hook you up with some excellent music….hymns…sung and played by my son. He has 3 CDs now, his first when he was just 19….and the best part, they’re FREE.

  15. Yes Diane I agree. Those in darkness do not know they are and even believe they are not and those who disagree with them or whatever are the ones in darkness hence the lead-in to tonight’s post on Rick Warren’s lecture from the Desiring God conference. :-)

  16. Dear Berean Gal,

    I would love to hear your son’s music. What a blessing from the Lord that your son is using his gifts to praise our Savior! Just let me know what to do.
    Gratefully, charisse

  17. Pingback: Rick Warren – Pelagianism – and the Desiring God Conference « Possessing the Treasure

  18. Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. We are to obey governors and kings. Though they may not obey the law, they command it to be obeyed. We must do not as they do, but as they say.

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