Why did Paul say we should wrestle against "principalities and powers" in Ephesians 6:12 and obey them in Titus 3:1?

ESV Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

ESV Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,

  • Well, as to beeing the same - the same Greek words are used in both cases. Ephesians 6:12 τας αρχας προς τας εξουσιας and Titus 3:1 αρχαις και εξουσιαις. Archas and exousias. Strong Numbers 746 and 1849. Roughly speaking, 'archetypes' and 'authorities'.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 29 '18 at 22:38
  • @NigelJ "Archetypes"?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 2 '18 at 22:37
  • @Ruminator 'Archetype' : The original pattern or model from which copies are made; a prototype. Oxford English Dictionary.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 3 '18 at 0:23
  • Yes, but where do you see any archetypes in the passage? Is that what you came up with from the etymology?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 3 '18 at 0:57
  • αρχας (from αρχη: beginning, first, principle) here simply means principalities in the most generic sense. Here, it's essentially synonymous with authorities/powers (εξουσιας). Oct 5 '18 at 11:26

The context should help you out a great deal. In Ephesians 6:12, the verse says that these powers are spiritual in nature and not physical. That's why he starts out by saying "we wrestle NOT with flesh and blood"; a clear reference to what comes next is spiritual in nature.

Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

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.

Then in Titus 3:1, Paul is dealing strictly with the physical. In the prior chapter, he deals with instructions on how to live in this physical world. Please notice the reference to "magistrates" in Titus 3:1 giving support to Paul speaking to the physical.

Titus 3:1 (KJV)

3 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,


In Ephesians

Broader context in Ephesians is the devil, not a physical but spiritual being

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I wish to draw on how the LXX translates the passage in Daniel

“But the prince (king of the king) of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My understanding is that behind the king of Persia was a king in the heavenly realm and it was that king that withstood the messenger who came to Daniel.

In view of this Apostle Paul most likely had in mind in Ephesians those in the heavenly realm and he says as much in the verse

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers (rulerships), against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The distinction is made that these are in heavenly places. They are therefore not human

In Titus

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,” ‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭NASB‬‬

These are indeed humans in positions of power.

It does not follow that all people in power have an evil counterpart in the spiritual realm. It may be the case but even if it be the case, it is established by God or allowed by Him.

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Same Greek word used here too εξουσια

I would love to explain further how God allows some human leaders to be influenced by evil leadership in the heavens but it will deviate from your question.

In Conclusion

In summary Titus is speaking of humans in position of power without specifying or drawing a distinction between those leaders being led by God or led by satan. Ephesians cuts to the chase and exposes the real power brokers in the heavenly realm as having authority over (some) human rulers and therefore when fighting it needs to be directed right at the source and not toward the helpless humans. And since the true opponents are spiritual beings, the warfare and weapons ought to be spiritual.


Although Paul ends Ephesians 6:12 with "spiritual wickedness in high place" he is not talking about spiritual authority in the previous usage of the words, principalities, powers and rulers. He is talking about actual governors and those in authority. He is not only using the same words as Titus 3:1, but its the same meanings. He is speaking of governors, authorities and rulers on earth. he is saying we are not wrestling or fighting against them but against spiritual wickedness in high places. In other words its not the earthly government, its spiritual wickedness in high places. So yes, Paul was speaking the same language in Ephesians 6 as Titus 3. Sorry for going against your traditional understanding.

  • Do not apologise for your opinion. That is what this site is about. Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Do not forget to take the tour (below) that explains how this site works.
    – user25930
    Feb 23 '19 at 20:50
  • Very well Danny. You could have pasted some texts to show that what you're saying is correct, or you could have pasted some scholarly resources from the internet. I try to encourage people to get upgraded to the up-to-date translations and translation notes : ESV, ISV, NET and LEB. Go to biblegateway.com. I also recommend Logos.com.
    – XegesIs
    Mar 3 '19 at 22:52

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