We’ve been talking about the foundations of spiritual warfare for the past couple weeks as we work towards studying the armor of God. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to “be strong in the Lord,” which is the starting point for engaging in spiritual battles. He also tells us what we’re up against and warns us to be vigilant against our Adversary. Before he gets into how we put on the armor of God, though, there’s one more point he emphasizes.
Paul says the reason we put on the armor of God is so “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11. WEB). And once he describes our adversaries in verse 12, he says this again.
Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:13, WEB)
What It Means To Stand
The Greek word translated “stand” is very similar to our English word. They both mean someone actually standing on their feet and also carry more metaphorical meanings as well. For example, in English we say someone “stands up for what they believe” and mean that they have a firm, courageous stance on a subject.
In Greek, histemi (G2476) carries ideas of firmness and reliability. Thayer’s dictionary says it means firmly establishing something in a certain place. It also means setting something in balance (like establishing a just system of weights for currency). Another meaning is standing immovable and reliable, as in the foundation of a building. And finally, histemi carries the idea of being safe, sound, and unharmed as well as ready or prepared. Someone standing in this way is steadfast and doesn’t hesitate or waiver.
Standing Still and Trusting
There are times when standing against evil involves inactivity on our part. Or rather, it involves a voluntary submission to God’s activity in fighting the battle instead of us. For example:
Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again. Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.” (Ex. 14:13-14, WEB)
You will not need to fight this battle. Set yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid, nor be dismayed. Go out against them tomorrow, for Yahweh is with you. (2 Chr. 20:17, WEB)
These are two examples from Israel’s history of a time when the Lord Himself fought a battle for the people. Their only role was to trust and watch as He worked wonders. As spiritual Israel, there will also be times when instead of strengthening us to fight God says, “Stand back — I’ve got this.”
Actively Standing Against
Standing isn’t always passive, though. Daniel uses the phrase “stand up against” to describe prophesied warfare (Dan. 8:25; 11:14). There’s a sense of violent resistance in this phrase. Sometimes, “standing” involves activity. Being firmly rooted in God often involves standing in opposition to something evil.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7, KJV)
Our foundation for such a stand of resistance must be in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20). We have to be careful that the things we’re fighting against are things He resists as well. And when that is indeed the case, He is mighty to stand with us and fight along with us.
Willingness to take a firm stance against evil is a key part of the Christian faith. While we are told to stand still at times, we also need to be ready to actively resist or “withstand” evil (Eph. 6:13). In the passage we talked about last week, Peter describes the devil as “a roaring lion,” then tells us to “withstand him steadfast in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9, WEB). We can’t afford to be passive in our spiritual battle. We need to fight. And to do that, we look to the One who has won the battle before us, Jesus Christ, and to faithful Christians who’ve fought the good fight (Heb. 12:1-2).
For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls. You have not yet resisted to blood, striving against sin (Heb. 12:3-4, WEB)
Standing against evil means following Jesus’s example, wherever He might lead. It might even mean that our spiritual battles take a very real physical toll on us, perhaps even costing our lives. But part of the reason we’re fighting a spiritual battle in the first place is because we know there’s something beyond the physical that matters more. And that spiritual future is worth fighting for.