“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 6:12 (ESV)
Having referred to the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:11), the Apostle Paul elaborates on the spiritual war believers in Christ will encounter while living in this world.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. The word wrestle (πάλη; pale) does not refer to an entertaining show to be enjoyed by cheering spectators. Rather, the word means to fight and to struggle. To wrestle means to engage in an intense struggle, involving physical or nonphysical force against a strong opposition.
Paul goes on to say that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. This means physical or human individuals.
John Calvin writes, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood. The meaning is that our difficulties are far greater than if we had to fight with men. There we resist human strength, sword is opposed to sword, man contends with man, force is met by force, and skill by skill. But here the case is widely different. All amounts to this, that our enemies are such as no human power can withstand.”
Who, or what, exactly do believers in Christ wrestle against as they seek to honor God? The Apostle Paul provides some insightful answers.
Believers in Christ wrestle against rulers. Rulers (ἀρχή; arche) are wicked forces and supernatural powers.
Believers in Christ wrestle against authorities. Authorities (ἐξουσία; exousia)) are those who have the authority to rule. In this context, authorities are also wicked forces.
Believers in Christ wrestle against cosmic powers over this present darkness. Cosmic powers (κοσμοκράτωρ; kosmokrator) are world rulers who are endued with supernatural power. These rulers do not simply seek to rule the physical world but rather the people who inhabit the physical world. The phrase this present darkness (οὗτος σκότος; outos skotos) means the current realm of evil or the abode of evil spirits.
Fourthly, believers in Christ wrestle against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The phrase spiritual forces (πνευματικός; pneumatikos) can refer to the spiritual forces of God who are angelically righteous and holy. However, in this context it refers to the demonic forces of the devil. This is clear by Paul’s usage of the phrase of evil (πονηρία; poneria) which means wickedness, evil and malice.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “To wrestle is a term also used of hand-to-hand combat. Struggling or wrestling features trickery and deception, like Satan and his hosts when they attack. Coping with deceptive temptation requires truth and righteousness. The four designations describe the different strata and rankings of those demons and the evil supernatural empire in which they operate. Satan’s forces of darkness are highly structured for the most destructive purposes. Cf. Col. 2:15 and 1 Pet. 3:22.”
No wonder believers in Christ must daily put on their spiritual armor. WE must remember that all Christians are engaged in a holy war.
Soli deo Gloria!