(From In Christ–the Church at Ephesus, forthcoming.)
The purpose of wearing the armor of God is to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Schemes (μεθοδεία) is translated wiles in the Authorized Version. It is a compound word that literally means method or meta-journey. The meta-journey of an individual is quite different than the meta-journey of a community (a Trinity). The individual is not ultimately focused on relationship, but communities are. The value of Trinitarianism is found in its relational character, where ultimate identity is both individual and corporate, and neither merely monotheistic or pantheistic. The schemes and ideas of the devil are atomistic and individualistic, whereas the plans of God are Trinitarian and community based—relational.
But this does not mean that the values of the community trump the values of the individual. God’s ideal is not communistic. Rather, God’s ideal is Trinitarian and relational, where authority and responsibility are shared, divided, as they are in the Godhead. Such sharing does not violate the ultimacy of the individual, nor of the corporate group. Rather, it harmonizes them such that appropriate authority and responsibility are dispatched as needed by the circumstance requiring them.
Thus, authority and responsibility cannot be replaced by an algorithm, rule or principle. Rather, the call for authority and/or responsibility must always be personal—living, whether individual or corporate. This means that ultimate authority and/or responsibility is both unique and shared by all parties of the corporate body. For the Godhead it means that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each and all ultimately unique Persons who have a shared essence, to describe it in traditional terms. And for human beings, created in God’s Trinitarian image, ultimate authority and responsibility are shared in union with Christ—not perfectly nor completely, but adequately for the circumstantial need.
Standing against the devil (διάβολος) means standing against slander and accusation. But why would those who stand with the God of love and goodness be subject to slander and accusation? Because the enemies of God do not actually understand Him. They misunderstand and misrepresent Him to be something that He is not, but which they mistakenly believe He is. God’s purpose is to eradicate evil from the world, and it is a good thing. However, the definition and character of evil is the object of dispute. So, the two sides do not agree about what is evil and what is not. And to disagree with God about this is to side with what God calls evil, and to perceive to be under the threat of eradication.
Those who fear that God intends to eradicate them, and who cannot or will not agree with God, hurl accusations at Him and His people out of fear, thinking that God intends to destroy them, their personhood. But this is an error because God is no respecter of persons (Deuteronomy 16:19; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; James 2:9). In other words, God is not after them as persons, but is after their false belief, their false thinking, their false ideas—their misunderstanding of Him. He is not after them individually, but is after their false worldview, their false belief. God’s desire for the eradication of evil does not mean that God is out to eliminate certain people. Not at all! God does not want people to die. He wants them to stop believing in evil things.
Unfortunately, too many sinners identify with their sin. They think that they are their sin, that their sin is an essential part of them, and essential part of who they are as individuals. So, they tenaciously cling to their sin, rather than change their minds and agree with God. This tendency is especially strong among unrepentant homosexuals, but is not limited to them. All who are sufficiently habituated to their sin tend to commit this error.