For our struggle is not against flesh and blood

by Mike Ratliff

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB) 

As we study the Greek underlying our translations of Ephesians 6:10-20 pertaining to the “whole armor of God” we learn that Christians are commanded to ἐνδύσασθε or to put on the whole armor of God once-for-all and never take it off because it is to our benefit especially when we find ourselves in circumstances where we are in the minority standing firm as our Lord commanded. 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 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 “world forces” in the NASB. I  put the phrase in focus in bold in all five “renderings” below.

Here is v12 from the NASB, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

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 NA28 Greek text, “ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις.

Here is my translation of v12, “Because we do not wrestle against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the 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 “the world powers of this darkness.” 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 the 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 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 can stand firm and not be ignorant. The ignorant are destined to fall victim to Satan’s attacks. There is no other escape.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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