Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 6:10-13 Bible Study P2 - The method in the enemy's madness
by I Gordon
We looked at Ephesians 6:10-13 last time focusing mostly on verse 12 as we explored the reality of the unseen world around us. You might remember that we zeroed in on this thoroughly corrupted Cherub we call Satan, looking at his fall and hatred for believers. In doing so, we saw something actually wonderful - we saw that what he desired and tried to take by force for himself, God freely offers by grace to those that humbly accept His offer of salvation. Now it is fair to say that this does not make the devil happy. I'm not sure if anything actually does make him happy... but this certainly doesn't. This is part of the reason why he hates believers - but it also points to the incredible future that awaits those saved! So last time was about the unseen enemy. This time it's about his schemes and our need to be strong in the Lord. It is all based around this key passage:
Eph 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
So what will we look at I hear you ask? We'll keep it simple... just two main points. We will look at:
- The method of his madness - the schemes and wiles of the enemy
- The source of our strength - our need to be strong in the Lord
Sounds simple enough... let's begin with this methodical madness.
The method in his madness
Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
If you know your Shakespeare well (and let's face it, who doesn't?) you will know the quote from Hamlet which says 'though this be madness, there is method in it'. It is from this line that we have the saying 'there is a method in this madness' which we might say for example when there is an underlying purpose in what looks like someone's crazy behavior. Well, let me adapt that saying a little for our enemy for his madness is not your common crazy-looney-nutso variety. No, his madness is the anger and fury variety. This is primarily against God but also against those whom God loves. But be assured that there is a method in this madness. The interesting word that stood out for me in the verse above is 'schemes'. The devil has schemes.
According to 'The Complete Word Study Dictionary' the word translated 'schemes' is "methodeía - noun from methodeúō, to work by method... the following or pursuing of an orderly and technical procedure in the handling of a subject."
So yeah, there is a method in the devil's madness alright. He has a scheme, a plan, a procedure, a strategy in place for the handling of a subject - namely you! The NKJV translates this part of the verse 'the wiles of the devil'. 'Wiles' means 'a strategy intended to ensnare or deceive'. All of this points to the fact that we are facing an enemy with a clear plan and intention. And while it will be adapted for your particular weakness or weaknesses, it is an ancient scheme with a solid track record spanning thousands of years.
Our Daily Bread has the following useful thoughts:
"Nobody is temptation-proof. Even mature Christians have weaknesses in their spiritual armor that make them vulnerable to a wounding attack by the enemy of their souls. Our pride can provide the very opening needed for the sharp thrust of a satanic dart. So can the love of money, a quick temper, a critical tongue, or chronic impatience.
The ancient Greeks told a story of a warrior named Achilles. His mother had been warned that he would die of a wound, so she dipped him as an infant in the river Styx. That was supposed to make him invincible. But she held him by one heel which the protective waters didn't cover. And it was through that heel that he received his fatal wound. Each of us must ask: What is my Achilles heel? We need to know our weaknesses, where we could easily be wounded spiritually. Then, as we rely on the Lord for His help, we will be protected from the fiery darts of the wicked one."
That is why believers are instructed in God's word '... in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.' (2Co 2:11)
So let's look at this schemes. A few weeks back a lady wrote in to the website asking a question that got me to explore again what the Bible says about the tactics of the enemy.1 We could break the enemy's ways into five categories. He is the Tempter, Deceiver, Blinder, Accuser & Persecutor.
This is seen right from the Garden of Eden where the serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and be like God (Gen 3:5-6). It was also seen when Satan tempted Jesus in Wilderness (without success! - Matt 4:1) and he tempts humanity through our lack of self control (1 Cor 7:5). Satan's temptations work on the desires of the heart (1 John 2:16) and young believers especially, if lifted up, can fall into the trap and temptation of pride, as did the Devil (1 Tim 3:6).
Along with his temptation comes his lies and deception. He tempted Eve but also deceived her into thinking that God was holding good things from her. He is one who plants evil amongst the true (Matt 13:39) and can masquerades as an angel of light, working through some who outwardly look like ministers of the Gospel (2 Cor 11:14). He is able to deceive through miracles and signs and this will only increase in the last days according to Bible prophecy (2Th 2:9) and will even deceive all the nations (Rev 18:23 ,20:3)
He seeks to keep people blind to the truth (2 Cor 4:3-4). This can be through keeping them busy with the temptations of this world... Or deceiving them into thinking that they have found the truth through false religions, Whatever it takes to keep the veil intact! He works to snatch the Gospel seed away when it is planted in someone's life (Matt 13:19) through confusion, misunderstanding and many websites / Youtube videos contradicting the truth!
Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10, Zec 3:1) who tries to keep people in subjection by guilt and fear (Heb 2:14-15), attempting to undermine the believer's relationship with God. He does not want the believer to know that we have an advocate before the Father (1 John 2:1), a High Priest who has already paid the price for all sin and intercedes for us (Heb 7:25)
Satan comes, according to Jesus, to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) Peter tells us that he seeks to devour like a lion (1Pe 5:8) We see from scripture that he has asked to sift believers like wheat (Luke 22:31). He uses persecution and hardship to stop the seed of the Gospel from fully taking root in a person's heart (Matt 13:21) He can cause physical infirmities (Luke 13:16) and can even indwell unbelievers (Luke 22:3) He desires to put roadblocks in the way of believers to prevent the gospel from going forth (1Th 2:18).
So the fight is on. The true battle commences once you become a Christian. As mentioned above, don't forget that he has a method and a plan that is tailored for your particular weakness to chose what is most appropriate for you.
But someone says, "I thought that when one became a Christian, Christ set you free from the kingdom of Satan. The devil can no longer touch you." Is that your concept of the Christian life? Nothing could be more shallow, incomplete, and wrong! When you become a Christian the battle only begins. That is when it starts. It is true the devil can never totally defeat a Christian. Those who are genuinely the Lord's, who are born again, who have come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, are delivered from total defeat. We do not hesitate to emphasize that. The devil can never get us back into the position of unconscious control which he once exercised over us, as he does over the rest of the world. But he can demoralize the Christian. He can frighten us, he can make us miserable, he can defeat us in many ways. He can make us weak and therefore barren and unfruitful in the things of God. It is quite possible to be more unhappy and miserable as a Christian than you ever were before you became a Christian, at least for periods of time.
Pastor Ray Stedman
What about his 'methods' for nations as a whole?
So far we have looked at his tactics for the individual but it is worth mentioning the bigger picture - that of nations and, to put it simply, his goal for global control! In the last study I mentioned the '5 I will's' of Satan in Isaiah 14 that led to his fall. I quoted this verse but didn't expound on the last part of it:
Isa 14:12 "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!
So notice that last part... You will see here Satan's purpose for the nations as a whole is to 'weaken' them. Time for another word study I think! This word 'weakened' in the Hebrew is "Ĥalash - A primitive root; to prostrate; by implication to overthrow, decay: waste away, weaken."
That is what the enemy does. He seeks to weaken a nation. He wants to bring it low. Especially if it is a strong Christian based nation. He works towards spiritual decay. Take a look at the Western world today. We were once strong in our Judeo-Christian heritage and our nations thrived. Today it seems that many of the nations own leaders work to undermine that strength. Instead of unity there is division. Many polices are designed to weaken the state and keep the people divided. They stoke the flames of race, gender, sexuality and financial inequality. Divide and conquer. Behind it all is an enemy whose tactics right from his own first rebellion where just that - divide and conquer - even against God! And now he brings that to a nation, a city, a community, a family near you. Yes the enemy weakens the nations. He brings them low through spiritual decay, turning them away from God's truth, causing them to waste away in their power, freedom and influence. But that is not the ultimate endgame...
Deceiving and weakening the nations is certainly a goal but it only part of a larger goal. He is already the 'god of this world'. He has the masses deceived already. Be he longs for something else. Ultimately what he wants is what he has desired from the very beginning - To be worshipped! To come out of the shadows and take the glory for himself! To be looked upon as the Most High and admired by the entire world!
So what is he ultimately working towards? He weakens the nations, as is being seen before our very eyes, so that a new global government structure can be implemented. One he can control and rule through one man - his man. A man empowered by Satan himself who will declare himself to be God (Satan's desire from the beginning - 2 Thes 2:4, Dan 11:37, Isa 14:14). And, for a short season, he will succeed.
Rev 13:3-4 The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon (Satan) because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast?..."
So that is where this world is heading. That is why the freedoms we enjoyed are being taken and government control is increasing. That is why national economies are being ruined with unpayable debts amassed. That is why the World Economic Forum (an off-shoot of the United Nations) has declared that by 2030 you will own nothing, and, according to the propaganda, 'be happy'. For the nations of this world and for this entire planet, there is a goal. There is a plan. There is a method being implemented. And behind it all is the Serpent who has a well coordinated method in this madness.
Our need - Be strong in the Lord!
Eph 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power...
Alright... let's get back to your individual life and response. I said earlier that Satan has a scheme, a plan, a procedure, a strategy in place to break you down. That is the bad news. Sorry about that. But here is the good news:
If you are a believer you are joined to One far greater than he! Satan may rule over this world and his fallen angelic followers, but Jesus is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion! (Eph 1:20-21) Satan's deception is overcome by God's truth. His attacks can be thwarted by God's armor. His temptation is nullified by God's strength and way of escape (1Cor 10:13). His roar may be to cause fear, but he will flee if resisted (James 4:7)
I'm not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me - he's got judo I never heard of. But he can't handle the One to whom I'm joined; he can't handle the One to whom I'm united; he can't handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.
So what does the Bible say? The Bible doesn't say be strong and powerful in yourself. You, if you are a normal human being, probably aren't a green beret. You probably don't feel strong and powerful. You probably have several character flaws and weaknesses like the rest of us do. But never forget these two missing parts of the sentence - 'in the Lord' and 'his mighty power'. 'Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.' It makes all the difference. You could be a 90 year old shaky, frail, great great grandmother of 37 who needs to be pushed around in a wheelchair and spoon fed... yet be oh so strong in the Lord! This is not self help or self-confidence. This is not 'The Little Engine that could' type of stuff saying - 'I think I can, I think I can'... No. This is being strong in His strength.
Often it helps to look at stories that illustrate truth. Let's look at a couple of examples. Did you know that Ephesians has an Old Testament equivalent book? Do you know what it is? It is the book of Joshua2. Just as the Lord had given the children of Israel all of the Promised Land and told them that 'I will give you every place where you set your foot', so the New Testament believers, as we have seen in the book of Ephesians, have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus... and yet we too have to stand upon that which is ours. Note also that just as the Joshua and the Israelites had to take the land for themselves and fight against an enemy to drive them out, so we too have a fight, a battle, that rages all around (and in) us, as we have seen.
Now Joshua and the Israelites had some amazing victories over great enemies. But something came first. Before the victory over the 5 kings of Canaanite in Joshua 10, where the Sun stood still... before the eventual victory over Ai in Joshua 8... before even the incredible victory over Jericho where the walls of the great city came down by faith and God's might... some thing happened. Do you know what it was? Before there was any victory they met someone. Someone very interesting and faith inspiring! Someone with a sword in His hand!
Joshua & the man with a sword in his hand
Jos 5:13-15 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" (14) Neither, he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" (15) The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
I love this wee all-important snippet inserted into the story. God is great at giving us reminders of the One who is with us! So what Joshua and what do we learn from this?
- Firstly, who is this man? We see from Joshua's response of falling down in reverence and worship that this is the Lord Jesus! This is confirmed by the fact that the place was immediately holy! And at the start of chapter 6 it has His instruction saying 'Then the LORD (Yahweh) said to Joshua...' This is the Lord Jesus!
- Secondly, note whose side He is on. Joshua asks, in so many word 'Are you on our side or our enemies?' His answer, to quote Major Ian Thomas, was 'No. I haven't come to take sides. I have come to take over!' We have to submit to His rule. Joshua thought that He looked likely a useful warrior but He hadn't come to play a bit-part role. He is the commander and before any victory in our life we must have Him in His right place!
- Thirdly, He has a sword in His hand. In short, He means business. Imagine getting a glimpse of the One who is with us! Imagine what it did for Joshua knowing that "yes, the enemy is strong and their cities are fully fortified... but they have no idea of the One who is with us!" Faith rises when we see Him as He really is!
Remember that Joshua was not necessarily strong in Himself. God had to encourage Him several times to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:5-9) but it was also with these words - 'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
So you might be thinking... "that's good... I agree with that... Yet I still fear. I see the changes happening in this world and get anxious! What does the future hold? I want to be strong and courageous, I want to courageously stand for truth but often feel anything but. I get worried... I get intimidated." Don't we all at times! One of the great things about being strong in the Lord is that His strength (which is what we are speaking about) is perfected in weakness. Yeah, weakness... that's you! And yet, at the same time, you can be strengthened in Him.
The enemy at Ziklag: David's example of finding strength
Let's look at some practical steps in this from the life of David. David, having been on the run from King Saul, once found himself living with the Israelites sworn enemies, the Philistines. They allowed David to live with his men in a town called Ziklag. We pick up the story in 1 Sam 30 where David and his men have just travelled on a three day journey home, to find the following...
1Sa 30:1-8 Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; (2) and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. (3) When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. (4) Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. (5) Now David's two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. (6) Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God... (8) David inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?" And He said to him, "Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all."
What a day! You come back from a three day journey exhausted to find what? A nice roast in the oven and some time to put your feet up? Mmm... not exactly. You don't even have an oven or anywhere to put your feet up anymore! It is all burnt and destroyed. What's worse is that all your love ones are gone. Your wife. Your sons. Your daughters... all gone without a trace. The scripture tells us that David and all his men weep so bitterly that they had no more strength even to weep. Can you imagine it? Before long the utterly consuming grief became anger and David's own loyal men want to stone him. This is one bad day. David has been low before but this plunges new depths. The scripture tells us he was 'greatly distressed'.
What did he do? What do you do? In the midst of all this, we read these great words - 'But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God'. Amazing! At his lowest point following the attack from the enemy, he found his strength in God. Hmmm... how? That was what I pondered as I read this. What did he do? We know from the passage that he sought the Lord in prayer and received the word of the Lord. Was there anything else?
I looked to see if there were any Psalms that were written at this time. No luck. There might have been but there are none that specifically say they were written at the time of the attack on Ziklag. But another Psalm of David's that spoke of being strengthened caught my eye. Let's use this part of Psalm 27 to gain some practical steps in 'strengthening yourself in the Lord'.
Practical steps on being strong in the Lord
Psa 27:1-3 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? (2) When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. (3) Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.
- The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? - First and foremost REMEMBER THE LORD! In your difficulty, renew your mind with the truth. Remember who He is for you right now. Remember that he is the great I AM - The One that sustains you right now! Remember that He is your defender. This One pictured earlier with the sword in his hand is your defender and He has no equal!
- When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. - Remember the past also. Draw strength and hope from how God has seen you through difficult times in the past. David had many such times and could strengthen himself by taking to heart how God had always seen him through the tough times and therefore will make a way again.
- Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident. - David's confidence in the Lord overcame the fear of the enemy. Faith must arise. Only faith conquers fear and faith is based on who He is - His might, His faithfulness, His care. In such an environment of a renewed mind, faith flourishes!
Psa 27:4-6 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple. (5) For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. (6) And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
- One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life. To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple - Any attack, any sustained period of difficulty, narrows the focus... in a good way. It reduces it down to what is our single most need - and that is to behold the Lord and dwell in His presence. All difficulties are surmountable when we truly see Him!
- For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. - Always remember - God has a place where you can be hidden from the difficulty around you. It doesn't mean that the trouble is not going on. It simply means that there is a place where instead of fear, there is peace. Instead of that overwhelming sinking feeling, there is an inner sense of calmness. 3
- And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD - We sing! We sing His praise - right in the darkest day! We may not see the way forward yet we give thanks and praise Him for what He will do.
Psa 27:13-14 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. (14) Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
- I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. - How honestly David writes! And can we not all say the same as we look back on our lives? But thank God that He is an incredibly kind God who does care and does act. Often it takes longer than we hope. This is all part of normal Christian life as His primary goal is to form Christ in us. But praise God we see His goodness in this life, and certainly in the next!
- Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord! - Wait on Him. Take the issue to Him. Commit it to His care. Waiting is not passive. You could say that this whole Psalm incorporates waiting on the Lord. It is finding strength in Him in the moment of trial until the matter is resolved.
We've seen that we have a formidable foe and one that should not be underestimated. He knows humanity well. He knows you well. He has specific methods and plans to bring each Christian down and these are plans that he has been using since time began. However, we are not to fear for greater is the One who is with us that he who is in the world. As Joshua discovered, we go into battle led by 'the man with a sword in his hand', the Commander.. The Lord Jesus Himself! So we are to be strong in the Lord and in His might. We are to strengthen ourselves, in Him, as David had to in his difficult day.
And that is what we will continue to look at as we move on through this last part of Ephesians, looking next time at our means of both defense and attack through the armour of God.