Friday, October 7, 2016

Do we have to wrestle with the Principalities and Powers OR do we have to submit ourselves to them?

Dear in Christ,

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
While I heard a tall, fat, preacher, a friend of mine, jumping up and down on the dais, screaming and shouting this verse in his baritone voice, I felt myself to be an inferior Christian, because, I don't wrestle with any of the things mentioned in the scripture.
If I were to wrestle with any of these, I need to know who or what they are. I was ashamed to ask the preacher about the identity of these entities, lest I would be seen as a lesser mortal in his eyes. In fact, I dared not to ask any Christian about the scripture, because, they may think of me as a lesser Christian who doesn't go through all these wrestling.

Years later, I am writing this to let you know that if ever you felt inferior to the rest of Christians who claim to wrestle with principalities, powers and so on, you need not to feel inferior, because, they are NOT wrestling at all, they are just pretending to be holier than you.

From what I heard from many Christian teachers/preachers and reading of various commentaries on this passage, the impression I derived was that they think that the principalities and powers mentioned in the passage are Satanic / Devilish forces.

In order to simplify our understanding of the passage, let us examine all the passages in which the two Greek words translated as principalities and powers in this passage appear together. [This article is based on the King James Version (KJV) of the holy scriptures.]

Greek words used in the passage:
  • principalities: ἀρχή, (read as ar-khay', G746 in Strong's), translated variously, mostly as beginning, other renditions are magistrates, first, principles, rule, power, corners, and principality.
  • powers: ἐξουσία, (read as ex-oo-see'-ah, G1849 in Strong's.), translated variously, mostly as power, and also as authority, jurisdiction, liberty and right.

All the principalities and powers were created for Christ/God!

Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities,[G746] or powers[G1849]:all things were created by him, and for him:
Whether the talk is about God creating everything or Christ doing so, principalities and powers are created by him and for himIs it even thinkable that God or Christ, created Satanic/Devilish forces (if that's what these terms mean) for themselves? Doesn't the passage convey the same thought as John 1:3 and Rom 13:1-5? The message of the passage is that everything is created by God/Christ and all those who are in positions of power (rulers and authorities) are appointed by him. The passage has nothing to do with Satan/Devil.

Believers have to subject themselves to principalities and powers!

Tit 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities[G746] and powers[G1849], to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
Is it even remotely possible that Paul would instruct Titus to remind the members of his congregation that they have to subject themselves to Satanic / Devilish forces? Is it not evident from the context that the members of the church have to submit themselves to those who have charge over them (rulers and authorities)?

Christ is the head of all principalities and powers!

Col 2:10 And ye are complete in him (Christ), which is the head of all principality[G746] and power[G1849]:
If the words in question have any Satanic / Devilish connotations, Christ should be the head of such forces. I don't think that any Christian, worth his salt, would think of Christ as the head of Satanic / Devilish powers. Christ is the head of the church, which is his body! (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18). So, the principalities and powers in this context is the church, to which Christ is the head.

Christ spoiled the principalities and powers!

Col 2:15 And having spoiled principalities[G746] and powers[G1849], he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Somewhere during the time of Jesus' death and resurrection (30 - 33 AD), he triumphed over the
principalities and powers, and yet, my preacher friend is still wrestling with the same elements, interesting and intriguing, isn't it?

Please note that the previous verse (Col 2:10) and this one (Col 2:15) are in the same context. Does it tell us that Christ spoiled the same principalities and powers over which he is the head? Far be it from the truth! The context is about following the Jewish traditions like food habits, circumcision and festivals. Let me make a quick paraphrase of the chapter (please study the chapter thoroughly):
  • The church is complete and perfect in Christ in whom is the fulness of divinity.
  • The church is the body of Christ. (OR the church is the new principalities and powers.)
  • Christ has vanquished the old principalities and powers, which was the Law and those who follow and enforce the Law.
  • Therefore, the church needs not to heed to those who were vanquished by Christ.
In other words, the principalities and powers in this passage (Col 2:15) is the Law of Moses and those who enforce it (rulers and authorities).

The principalities & powers were put under the feet of Christ!

Eph 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:21 Far above all principality,[G746] and power[G1849], and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Eph 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Eph 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Here we are told that at the time of Christ's resurrection and ascension to heaven he was seated on the right hand of God, far above the principalities and powers and has all things put under his feet, including the principalities and powers! And yet, many of our fellow Christians continue to wrestle with what is already put below the feet of Christ. If it were Satanic / Devilish forces that Jesus triumphed over and was put under his feet, why is that church has been teaching that a celestial monster called Satan / Devil is still active?

As in the case of Col 2:10-15; two groups are juxtaposed here:
  1. principalities and powers which were vanquished.
  2. the Church, for which Christ is the head.
The death, resurrection and ascension of Christ signified the rejection of Jewish religion and its leaders (rulers and authorities) and the acceptance of those who believe in Christ as the body of Christ.

The wisdom of God to be made known to the principalities and powers!

Ephesians Chapter 3 is about the long hidden mystery of Christ. The mystery involves gentiles becoming fellow-heirs (with believing Jews). Please read this passage carefully:
Eph 3:8 Unto me, ... is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Eph 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, ...
Eph 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities[G746] and powers[G1849] in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Let me rephrase it for you:
  • The purpose of preaching of the gospel to the gentiles was to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery of Christ.
  • By making all the men to see the mystery, the wisdom of God would be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
Assuming that the principalities and powers mentioned here are Satanic / Devilish forces, how will they come to know of the wisdom of God while the gospel is preached to gentiles? Let us keep aside the expression "heavenly places" and read the passage again. While all the men are made to see the fellowship of the mystery, the principalities and powers also get to see it, because, they are also men. Now, let me propose that the principalities and powers in heavenly places mentioned here is the Jewish religious leadership (the rulers and authorities). Apart from their positions of power and authority, they are all men (humans). When the gospel is preached to the gentiles, they will come to know the wisdom of God and the mystery of Christ, which specifies that the gentiles are joint-heirs with believing Jews. (There is nothing mystical there.)

One may ask whether Jews and Jewish religious leadership were in heavenly places. Let me ask you a counterquestion: While Paul stated that believers are already placed in heavenly places with Christ, are you, as a believer, literally placed in heaven?
Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Eph 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
If you were not teleported to a location called heaven, nearly 20 centuries before you were born, is it not evident that these principalities and powers were not in heaven? While you were instructed to be subjected to principalities and powers (Tit 3:1), obviously, the elders of your congregation, is it even implied that they are heavenly realms? In other words, the expression "heavenly places" implies exalted position of power.

Passages where these Greek words are NOT translated as principalities and powers.

The understanding of the words translated as “principalities” and “powers” becomes easier when we consider the passages where these words are translated differently.
Luk 12:11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates[G746], and powers[G1849], take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
I think you will agree with me that this passage is part of Jesus' intimating his disciples about the persecutions that they would face from the Jewish religious leaders.
Luk 20:20 And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power[G746] and authority[G1849] of the governor.
This is the passage where the spies from Jewish leaders question Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar, so that they can entrap him in his words and deliver him into the hands of Pilate, the Roman Governor. Here, the power and authority of the governor is described using the same words translated as principalities and powers.
1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule[G746] and all authority[G1849] and power.
The passage doesn't specify whether these rule and authority were in heaven or on earth. There cannot be any rule or authority in heaven other than God himself. So, the talk can't about heaven.

Coming back to Eph 6:12

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Anyone who has gone through the book of Acts and the epistles of Paul would know that it was Jews and their leadership that caused constant trouble for Paul's ministry. I don't think that it is necessary to cite all those passages. However, I think it is pertinent to cite a passage about the hindrances made by Jews to the ministry of Paul.
1Th 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
1Th 2:15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
1Th 2:16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
1Th 2:17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
1Th 2:18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
While there is a group of people who are capable of killing the Son of God, their own Messiah, there is hardly any need for a cosmic monster named Satan or Devil to hinder Paul or Silvanus or Timotheus from preaching the gospel or visiting the believers. Please note that this passage juxtaposes those who forbid the preaching of the gospel with Satan (adversary) who stops Paul from visiting them.

We can say with confidence that the subject matter of Eph 6:12 is Paul's encounters with the morally corrupt and apostate Jewish religious leadership of his day. If you are wondering as to what “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” doing in the passage: Paul is telling his readers that our struggles are not with individuals, but the corrupt system that they represent.

No, I haven't overlooked Rom 8:38!

So far we haven't considered Rom 8:38, because, it is yet another Greek word - δύναμις (read as doo'-nam-is, G1411in Strong's) - that is translated as powers in this passage.
Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities[G746], nor powers[G1411], nor things present, nor things to come,
Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The fact that the word "angels" precedes the expression "nor principalities, nor powers" gives the impression that principalities and powers are spirit beings, just as angels are. If such an assumption be correct, then the words "life" and "death" that precedes the word "angels" also should signify spirit beings. Do you really think that such assumptions make good exegesis?

Let's look at the passage. Isn't it a short expression of God's love towards us (or vice versa)? Tell me this: If ever you have loved someone, how do you express your love towards your beloved? "See girl, I want to marry you and produce a couple of kids in you, that's all"?! If you won't use such callous expressions to express your love, isn't it unfair on your part to think that God won't use figures of speech and hyperboles to express his love? We need to understand that much of the scriptures is either poetry or prose poetry.


Had the all the scriptures been translated uniformly and consistently across the New Testament, we won't have been having those high sounding Principalities and Powers! (Or we would have been having them everywhere, which still would have simplified our understanding of the scriptures.)

High sounding words and pompous language are absolute necessities of religions to keep their followers in control. While preachers like my tall, fat friend, screams and shouts from the pulpit that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers” and so on, an ordinary member of the congregation, who has not invested his time in studying the scriptures, would be dumbfounded at the amount struggles that the preacher goes through, all for the sake of the congregation! (Needless to say, more money to the preacher!)

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

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