The Scriptures tell us to Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. In the same passage (Ephesians 6:10–11), we are informed as to what God equates with being strong in the Lord. It is this: You will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. It follows then, that understanding the various schemes of the devil is a consequence of being strong in the Lord. Put another way, if you are not spiritually discerning and understanding of Satan’s ways then you are not very strong in the Lord.
What are the ploys of the devil that dupe so many people— and how can you see through them?
Read on, my friend.
This week I would like to take a close look at Ephesians 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.
I would like you first to notice the command of the passage: Finally, be strong in the Lord. Next, see the cause for one being strong in the Lord (or discerning in the Lord): it is accomplished not in our own abilities, determination or willpower, but rather, in the strength of His might. That is to say we walk not in our human abilities, but by faith in His sufficiency. The believer’s strength is not derived from self; it is a function of how closely he is tethered to the Lord Who gives him his strength. Lastly, notice the consequence of our invoking His might in our lives, of being strong, or discerning in the Lord: you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. This outline—The Command, The Cause and The Consequence of being strong in the Lord—will be elaborated on in our study that follows. The proposition of this week’s study is this: it is normative for obedient believers to be spiritually strong and discerning!
II. THE COMMAND TO BE DISCERNING
Finally be strong in the Lord …
The command of this passage is more than simply one person telling another what to do. The Greek construction reveals the idea that the believer should be able to do what is commanded! It is the idea of being who you already are in Christ! Let me explain. Paul is communicating this idea by his choice and use of Greek verb tenses: the Greek word before his verb of choice is “finally” (loipos) meaning “henceforth and in the future.” He uses that in combination with the genitive neuter singular definite article, “be.” In other words, as a result of knowing and believing in one’s high calling in Christ (Chapters 1–3 of Ephesians) and then manifesting the resultant mature outward character and behavior incumbent with and keeping with one’s high calling (Chapters 4–6:9), what should naturally result “henceforth and in the future” (6:10) will be the enablement and ability to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (6:11).
The schemes of the devil, we will see, are spiritual in nature, but are manifest physically through his pawns—non-believers (sometimes referred to as “tares” in Scripture)—in the world in which we live. Notice in this regard the verse in Ephesians that follows (6:12); it elaborates on this core thought:
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.
Understanding this is fundamental to spiritual maturity! This passage is a mainstay in the study of the doctrine of demons, (aka, Demonology) but suffice it here to say, per this passage, that
The actual battles believers face in office over certain biblically based policy issues are not necessarily with adverse human beings, but with Satan’s surrogates.
Believers who are mature in Christ will have this perspective on both personal and professional battles wherein God’s specific revealed will is in jeopardy; they will see things this way. They will also possess the discernment and the ability to stand firm against the devil’s schemes.
One former White House Cabinet Member once confided in me that a well-known believer was “checking out” of D.C. and moving to a remote area to raise his family. He was retreating from the battle for the soul of the nation.
The Cabinet Member asked me, “How should I respond to him? What should I say?” My answer was, “He needs to be in Bible study and understand his calling to God’s institution of civil government! If he understands the argument of the Ephesian epistle, it will aid him in his decision making. Does he realize he has been chosen by God before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1)? Does he understand that he is commanded to walk in a manner worthy of the calling (Ephesians)? Does he understand that he is called to stand firm in Ephesians 6?” Does he understand that he may have been put in office “for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). I know of no other way to counsel someone who has unilaterally decided to desert the battle than to point him to this command in Scripture aimed at all believers: STAND FIRM! There is no option here once you realize you have been bought with a price and are a slave to Christ.
The Greek word for stand firm (histemi ) is used in ancient literature in a military context to mean, “holding your ground while under attack.” The Apostle John uses it in Revelation 2:25 in reference to the Church at Thyatira—itself under Satan’s attack—when he quotes Jesus saying, “hold fast (histemi) until I come.” It follows that one is not strong, discerning or mature in Christ if he lacks the ability—for whatever reason—to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Believers who are deceived or seduced by the devil’s various schemes are termed infants in Christ, per 1 John 2:12–14 (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1–9) if in fact they are even saved. Per this passage, a babe in Christ knows only that his or her sins are forgiven, whereas a young man in the faith has definitely overcome the wicked one (v. 14). In other words, a mature Christian has spiritual discernment and can see through the profusion of antics served up by Satan. He can and does stand firm. In the larger context of what follows in Ephesians 6, he or she is armed for spiritual battle. In fact, Paul uses stand firm three times in this section of Scripture that introduces spiritual warfare. He will go on to list seven disciplines a believer must practice in order to stand firm. How to stand firm is the essence of the remainder of the passage.
Now notice from Ephesians 6:12 whom it is that one need stand firm against. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but the one who presently controls his physical pawns: Satan. Ephesians 2:1–2 is abundantly informative, foundational and elaborative regarding those who have never repented of their sin. Paul says of them
And you were dead in your trespasses and sin in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
What Paul teaches us in this earlier passage is that all unbelievers are under the control of Satan, held captive by him to do his will. They are his minions, often without realizing it. Second Timothy 2:26 underscores this point when the Apostle Paul offers hope for the unregenerate, that they
… may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
III. THE CAUSE OF BEING DISCERNING
… in the strength of His might …
Apart from regeneration in Christ, unbelievers are used by Satan especially to lash out at believers in the most vindictive ways. As a matter of fact devil (diabolos) is used 35 times in the New Testament (NT) to describe Satan. The Greek word means “slanderer,” or “accusing falsely.” The English word “diabolical” and its meaning are a near trans-literation. Further, the Greek word for Satan, (satanas), means “adversary.” To understand what the Bible teaches in this regard is to understand that the ultimate struggles in the Capitol are not political, but spiritual. And there are really only two combatants behind all the scenes that play out on the Hill: Christ vs. Satan. Regardless of political affiliation, everyone works to some degree for one or the other: Christ or Satan. And the way you can ascertain who’s on what side is by this:
Know and expect that Satan’s surrogates always battle against those who represent God’s precepts.
So what side are you on? What side should you be on? This is why unbelievers need to come to Christ, and why it is so important for believers who serve in the Capitol to be maturing in Christ, which only comes through knowing and applying His Word. It is the only way to become strong in the Lord and fully appropriate the strength of His might. It is the only way we can stand firm, i.e., hold our ground while under attack as we defend God’s immutable truths. It is the only way we can see Satan’s schemes for what they really are. Unfortunately, many remain unsaved or spiritual babes and fall to the devil’s methods of deception. The Greek word for schemes (methodia), from which we derive the English word “method,” has a negative connotation to it, (which is not found in its transliterated English equivalent). It means “craftiness, cunning, and deception.” Ephesians 4:14 echoes this idea and adds much clarity and amplification in this regard:
We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming….
It saddens my heart when people who name the name of Christ in the Capitol have little, if any, desire to be trained in the Word through regular participation and intentional interaction in Bible study so as to gain an increasing understanding and ability to stand firm. Instead, many are seduced, flattered, deceived and misled so as to remain ineffective in battles—battles that are ultimately spiritual in nature. Satan has them where he wants them because they don’t realize his schemes, the schemes of the devil. If saved, they remain babes, walking in their own “strength” versus the strength of His might. The idea behind the strength of His might then is not so much, “Let go and let God,” as it is “Get in and get trained!” The causal agent of your spiritual discernment is God Himself—His might and His Word—being manifest in your life. The cause of your strength and discernment should not be from self-derivation, but rather from God’s imputation. The degree to which you are tethered closely to Christ is the degree to which you will effectively be able to stand firm. God is your causal agent.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCE OF BEING DISCERNING
… so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
What are the schemes of the devil? One should know what they are—be conscious of them—in order to be armed and properly equipped to fight such schemes. It is appropriate that their identification should dominate the remainder of this study. It is all too easy to be deceived and seduced if you know nothing of your enemy’s multiple fronts in the spiritual war that you are engaged in. Whether you like it or not as a believer, per Ephesians chapter 1, you have a high calling and a high duty to fulfill for God’s glory. Again, per the earlier sidebar, if you have been called by Him into serving Him in His institution of civil government, then you are commanded here to stand firm against all the methods of the devil.
Before exploring these schemes notice in addition, that the Greek definition of scheming (again, “craftiness, cunning and deception”) connotes the idea that one does not necessarily realize that Satan is behind the scenes creating the effect. Deception means “inculcating of one so that he takes the false as true, the unreal as existent, the spurious as genuine” (Merriam & Webster). Satan is the ultimate stealth bomber in the spiritual sense. Keep in mind that neither angels nor fallen angels procreate. That is to say Satan and his minions have been around before the fall of man in Genesis 3! That is to say that they are seasoned and skilled in their craftiness to deceive. Note too in this regard that in the Church Age in which we live, you do not see accounts in the NT of pastors “binding Satan” or doing exorcisms! Believers are not to act laterally when dealing with him. They are to appeal up the organizational chart like Michael the Archangel did in Jude verse 9 (“The Lord rebuke you!”). Believers need to carry a healthy respect for the wiles of the devil.
Oh beloved, if only more could see this! My heart is often broken over the successful scheming of the devil in the hearts of so many whom I love—and what is so painful is that those he holds captive in the Capitol don’t even realize it! 1 Timothy 4:1 serves to underscore this point:
But the Holy Spirit explicitly says that in the later times [now] some [apostates] will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the doctrines of demons.
Apostates are those who seemingly at one time were followers of Christ, but like the tares in the parable of the soils they are disingenuous, not the real thing. When the pressure comes for naming the name of Christ they are found for who they really are, unbelievers. These are those who let down the name of Christ. These are those who do not stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
It is not the intent of this study to provide an exhaustive listing of all of Satan’s schemes, but what follows are four of them—four categories of satanic craftiness, cunning and deception that you must be alert to today and stand firm against! Put another way,
The greatest problem in American Christianity is a lack of spiritual discernment.
Why do you think this is so? Because so many American believers today are biblically illiterate; people do not know the genuine article by which they can compare the false! Here then are some of the common schemes of the devil to be found in the world today:
A. SECULAR HUMANISM
Lest you think Secular Humanism and its adherents—including radical leftists and modern Progressives—is not satanic, one of their leading lights is Saul Alinsky. Alinsky offers an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical, “Lucifer” (Satan himself ) in his book (their bible), Rules for Radicals.
There are three aspects of Secular Humanism in particular that have an increasing hold and devastating effect on American culture. They are as follows:
1. Same Sex Marriage and Homosexuality
In past Bible studies, I have exposited many Scriptures regarding this scheme. This is Satan’s perversion of God’s beautiful blessing of sex between a man and a woman in the confines of holy matrimony. It destroys the building blocks of society—the family. God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman; a family headed by a father and a mother is the best incubator for creating civility in the next generation. Study after study—statistics—bear this out.
2. Women’s Liberation
Satan knows that if he can get women out of their intended complementary role to their husbands that he will own the next generation. And that is exactly what is happening in America today. Children desperately need their moms’ attention so that they are not hooked by Satan’s schemes of drugs, sex, slothfulness among other sins, in their formative years, which then often destroy their later productive years. The Women’s Liberation movement largely disconnects God’s plan for child incubation and catechism. Again, if Satan can destroy the family, he can destroy the nation.
3. The New Morality
This is code for “no morality.” It is also known as the woefully misnamed “wokeness”—a new supposed higher morality—that is not that at all! It is a “morality” invented by man, not God. It is a scheme to override and anesthetize the conscience of man. A close cousin to Postmodernism, the New Morality leads people to believe that they are their own judges of what is right and wrong. Truth is relative, so they think.
In his book, The Audacity of Hope, a past occupant of the White House spends an entire chapter arguing precisely this point—that there is no absolute truth.
The acceptance of these anti-biblical worldviews have a disastrous effect on the productivity of human beings.
B. FALSE RELIGIONS
Satan also deceives people by entrapping them in false religions—religions that appeal to their pride, i.e., systems that in essence declare that each of us is good enough to save ourselves. Similar to his temptation of Adam and Eve, all false religions have at their core personal merit—versus God’s meritorious work on the cross on behalf of every person—as their central agent of salvation attainment. When you think about it, all such religions deem Christ’s death utterly useless.
This religion has historically spread through the sword and seeks nothing less than world conquest for Allah. Allah was the moon-god worshipped in the Middle Eastern part of the world long before Mohammed came on the scene to found his religion (hundreds of years after the life of Christ). Salvation per Islamic theology is not attained via a loving, self-sacrificing act of God (as per Christianity); it is attained by jihad, a sacrifice of self in combatting the infidels. Whereas in biblical Christianity, God gives His life for man, in Islam, man must give his life for his god. Islam is but one of many illustrations of a deceptive false religion being proffered by the devil himself.
2. Works-Based “Christianity”
In Ephesians 5:11 Scripture commands believers to expose the schemes of the devil—the passage specifically states, do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. This is especially incumbent on someone in my profession to do more so than someone who has been called to serve in civil government.
There are forms of “Christianity” that have devolved a wayward doctrine of salvation in comparison to what the Scriptures teach.
These other “Christian” religions teach as if salvation were gained in some other way than by faith in Christ alone. There are those who believe they are to work their own way to heaven. Such thinking is diametrically opposed to what the Scriptures teach. (I realize that one can have a cultural connection to a religion and believe what the Bible says about salvation over and above the teaching of their religion—but why they remain associated with a religion that believes differently than they do is difficult to understand). To be clear, the scriptural teaching on salvation is summarized in Ephesians 2:8–9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Works-based “Christianity” deludes people into thinking they can save themselves via their own effort, when in reality they cannot. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, states Romans 3:23; it is a deception of Satan to think otherwise.
3. Liberal “Christianity”
Modernism is another name for theological liberalism. Many of America’s Christian denominations (and their educational institutions) have been affected by this and as a result are only shells wearing the name “Christian” today. Their doctrines are vastly different from what the Bible teaches. Theological Liberalism, or the Social Gospel form of “Christianity” are far from the real thing. They are a delusion of the devil.
About 100 years ago, religious liberals began stirring together human rationalism with Biblical revelation. This in turn suffocated historic, reformed biblical Christianity.
Specifically, Higher Criticism was imported which subjected Scripture to a cynical, skeptical brand of scholarship, falsely concluding that the source documents that make up our Bible were in error. Higher Criticism was an outright denial of the authenticity and historicity of the Bible—as though the inspiration and transmission of God’s words to man were erroneous. Scripture became subjugated to man, versus the other way around. What followed was a wholesale disaster: humanistic rationalism substituted for divine revelation. And today the results are equally disastrous: congregations that call themselves churches who have no sense for the authority of God’s Holy Word. The movement remains today (but is dying because their doctrine creates no incentive to evangelize folks outside their churches). In relatively recent years, theological liberalism was repackaged in the form of the multiyear “Jesus Seminar” where liberal scholars met semi-annually to vote on the sayings of Jesus so as to decide what was inspired and what was not. Liberal theology is a scheme of the devil that plays in and through the arrogant, self-righteous intellectual faculties of man. It serves to elevate his ego and proves hostile and poisonous to biblical revelation and Christianity.
Secular Humanism and False Religions are but two of Satan’s schemes, his attempts to deceive. There are two more that must be mentioned.
C. POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES
Not only does Satan deceive through secular movements and false religions, but he also uses political ideologies as well. Throughout history there have been many forms of human government, influenced by Satan that have attempted to destroy God’s purposes. For instance, the Roman Empire would not tolerate Christianity until the time of Constantine. Today Communism, in its atheistic political ideology is another such illustration; it persecutes the Church wherever it goes, as do Islamic theocratic ideologues as they expand their religiously exclusive political ideology. These are political schemes empowered by Satan that require godly political leadership to defeat—political leaders who can stand firm against such schemes of the devil! Ronald Reagan is a great illustration: he possessed such discernment when he stood against Communism during his presidency.
D. PERSONAL TEMPTATIONS
The last of four broad schemes of the devil in the world today are those of personal temptations that are orchestrated by him. How many are caught in immorality, pride, worldliness, self-reliance and self-indulgence today? Luke 8:12 adds to our study on demonology:
The devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
So tricky and deceiving is he that many who continually practice the aforementioned would tell you that they are saved. Why? Because he has sold them on the fact that they “believe in Jesus.” But the devil “believes in Jesus” as well and is certainly not saved (cf. James 2:19). He deludes people into thinking that intellectual assent is all that it takes—as if you need not repent of your habitual sins and come to Christ humbly, attitudinally submitting to His Lordship. John 10:10 states further:
The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
Remember, Satan does all his work very stealthily. He will do his best to try to trip up your effectiveness for Christ by enticing you with various personal temptations. See his deceptions for what they are and objectify them: Do not allow him to sideline you! Walk in the strength of His might!
These four areas, Secular Movements, False Religions, Political Ideologies, and Personal Temptations are what, in a broad sense, begin to illustrate the deceptive schemes of the devil in today’s world. God will enable you to be conscientious and victorious over all of them to the degree you are strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. You are strong in the Lord and the strength of His might to the degree you are obedient to Him and therefore tethered to Him! Your strength is derived from Him—and He was victorious over Satan at the cross! So are you to the degree you walk in the strength of His might!
God has graciously blessed us with the book of Ephesians in order that we might know of our high calling in Him (Chapters 1–3), how our behavior ought to be in relation to our high calling (Chapters 4–6:9), and lastly how we can be most effective for Him (6:10– 24) as a result. In light of this last point of the book, we must know our adversary, the devil, and be able to stand firm against his various schemes, i.e., his various forms of craftiness, cunning and deception. Failure to do so keeps one in spiritual diapers, far from becoming the soldier of the cross clad in the whole armor of God that He intended when He foreordained and adopted you for His purposes!
Don’t underestimate, undervalue, or underperform in your high calling, my friend. May many people be blessed because of your strength and spiritual discernment in Christ! Amen!