Spiritual Warfare: Know the Enemy

“…stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:11b

Sun Tzu, the author of the ancient classic The Art of War, underscores three fundamentals crucial in achieving victory on the battlefield. One of them is the need to know the enemy. Heavenly headquarters has supplied detailed intelligence on the enemy Christians face in spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6:11-12 Paul gives some of the details

Know the Enemy’s Strategies: against the wiles of the devil

First, one needs to understand the Devil is not haphazard in his attack. He has wiles or schemes, strategies or methods to implement against Christians. The term “wiles” is translated from the Greek, methodia from which comes the English word “method.” It describes the cunning craftiness and deception of the devil like a wild animal uses to gain advantage over it’s prey. A Christian is “not ignorant of his schemes” or methods (2 Cor. 2:11).

What are some of the tactics of the Tempter. He loves disguises. “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Twisting the truth into lies is his specialty (Gen. 3:1-3; John 8:44). He tells us one little sin won’t matter. He loves to quote scripture (Matt. 4:6). Then there is the terrible triad of worldliness. John warns, “do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

Identify the Leadership: devil

Many do not believe in the Devil’s existence. Satan, even, discourages belief in himself. People laugh and mock the idea of a two-horned, pointed tailed red devil. However, we have him as an adversary. Fifty-two times he is called “Satan”, which means “adversary” and thirty-five times the “devil”, which means “slanderer.” Satan is ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4). We need to know who God is, who we are, and even our enemy, Satan. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Because he is God’s enemy, he is our enemy.

Supernatural: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood

Christians are fighting a spiritual battle against a spiritual foe. Though Satan and his hosts are unseen to the naked-eye, they are by no means inactive. Spiritual wars cannot be fought with carnal weapons (2 Cor. 10:4). It is nothing like the Crusaders against Islam.

Satan does use human allies. When Peter tried to discourage Jesus from His appointed path, Jesus “turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Matt. 16:23). After Satan attacked Job “his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’” (Job 2:9). His three friends were no better. Satan uses wolves in sheep clothing to lead souls astray with doctrines of demons.

Though our warfare and enemies are spiritual in nature, this does not mean the struggle is any less real or difficult. The term “wrestle” was used of hand-to-hand combat as well as in the sport of wrestling. Wuest wrote, “In the word ‘wrestle,’ Paul uses a Greek athletic term…When we consider that the loser in the Greek wrestling contest had his eyes gouged out with the resulting blindness for the rest of his days.”

Everywhere: but against principalities

Notice in the mention of each of these supernatural powers the “against” precedes the noun.

Christians are really “up against it.” Principalities were spiritual beings and likely fallen angels (Eph. 3:10; Col. 1;16; Col. 2:14,15; Rom. 8;38,39). Jude explains, “and the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). The idea of the principalities is rulers over certain regions. These evil spirits rule over or control certain regions. Unlike God they are not omnipresent.


Satan has a vast organized hierarchy among his minions. Just what this consists of is anyone’s guess. However, during Jesus ministry some demons were more powerful than others.

Strong: against powers

God permitted Satan to destroy Job’s wealth and family. He is not all-powerful. Powers would include any one in a position of authority or power. Even elders in the church can use their authority to work for the dark side (Acts 20:29,30).

Evil: against the rulers of the darkness of this age…

The term “rulers” comes from the Greek, kosmodratores. It can be literally translated “world powers”. “The term is also used in a Jewish magical text, where it refers to the astral-demonic powers of the zodiac, who afflict people in a variety of ways” (Arnold 338). “The people of this area are well aware of spiritual power, but they have been accustomed to receiving it from the wrong means – through helper spirits, incantations, rituals, formulas, and calling on their gods and goddesses” (Arnold 336). When Paul was at Ephesus, many of the believers destroyed there books on magic. Of course, Paul is not informing us here that there is something magical behind horoscopes, etc.

Many: against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

The “heavenly places” are literally, “the heavenlies” or the spiritual realm. Some of these enemies are involved in astrology, witchcraft, goddess worship, and various mystery cults. Others are from denominationalism, atheism, humanism, materialism, intellectualism, occultism, and even Satanism.


The first mistake in any war or battle is to underestimate the strength and number of the enemy. Christians are clearly forewarned what they are up against. And to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

– Daniel R. Vess

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