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In the Letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes:

Ephesians 6:10-13: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For 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. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (emphasis added).

Is verse 12 perhaps suggesting that human beings are being manipulated by the forces of darkness to commit evil acts? That is, they are used as mere instruments? How else might this (vs. 12) and the other verses be interpreted?

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  • If I tell you a lie that is fundamental to life - everything you do is affected by that lie. That lie remains in men until God removes it. If you call that manipulated, then yes.
    – steveowen
    Aug 30 at 7:18
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    The various military battles described in the Old Covenant are waged against rival pagan nations inhabiting the holy land; the New Testament, however, speaks of a different type of battles, not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against sin and temptation, which is why, in all three Synoptics, Christ's ministry starts with His triumph over the devil and his snares, after fasting for forty days in the wilderness, following his baptism at the hands of John.
    – Lucian
    Aug 30 at 15:40
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The answer is yes to your question. Once we have been made alive in Christ we start seeing things differently.

This one is definitely difficult to perceive because all we see are people speaking and doing evil things, especially the few that are in authority over most.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms

definition: a ruler of this world
Usage: ruler of this world, that is, of the world as asserting its independence of God; used of the angelic or demonic powers controlling the sublunary world.
HELPS Word-studies
2888 kosmokrátōr (from 2889 /kósmos, "world" and 2902 /kratéō, "to rule") – properly, world-ruler, referring to Satan (demons) influencing the lives of worldly people (used only in Eph 6:12).

Here is another verse that confirms that very same thing.

and you being dead in your trespasses and sins— in which once you walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, Eph. 2:2

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  • Good points and references. I would add 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" and also 2 Cor. 11:3: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." +1.
    – Xeno
    Aug 30 at 17:03
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Is Paul suggesting that human beings are willing participants manipulated to commit evil?

Yes, some are, James 1:

13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

There are two factors involved: Satan's temptation and the individuals' own desire.

15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Some are fooled by Satan, 2 Corinthians 4:

3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God

Having suggested that some human beings are willing participants manipulated to commit evil, the point of Eph. 6:10-13 is slightly different. Paul focuses on believers and urges them not to be fooled by Satan but to stand up against him:

13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm

Don't be a willing participant with evil. Resist and stand firm against Satan's lies.

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  • Great answer. I asked this question because I think it speaks to the point about "loving our enemies as ourselves." Well, how do we "love ourselves?" I think the answer to that is by hoping for all the best in our own lives. If we then see our enemies as willfully deceived in their behavior, we should pity them for the glaring deceit for that they have allowed themselves to become entangled. +1.
    – Xeno
    Aug 30 at 16:58
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    Right, exactly :)
    – Tony Chan
    Aug 30 at 17:18
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Willing participants? With ‘darkness’? I think not! Arguably participants, but certainly not willingly.

More so unknowingly. That’s why Paul taught passages like here in Ephesians. So that believers would know…. Because this knowledge is not intuitive…

ROMANS 10:2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

Without this ‘knowledge’, man operates ‘in the flesh’. And, the ‘flesh’ only knows what it has learned (outside of, that is, separated from God.) So all of mankind, outside of God, is manipulated by the spiritual ‘forces’ Paul outlines in Ephesians 6 - not willingly, but unknowingly.

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  • Slow down, please. I'm of the belief that we have free will, and I don't know your position on that. But if you are of the same opinion (that we do have free will) then we have the ability to reject that which is evil and demonic. My point here is that if we do not reject evil - and instead adopt it as part of our lives, then we have, yes, willingly accepted it. I hope this makes sense. If you believe we do not have free will, then I'm not certain how to respond.
    – Xeno
    Aug 31 at 4:06
  • @Xeno we do not have free will - we have the illusion of FW. This illusion is broken down to varying degrees by God's provision. That's why Satan is removed for 1000 yrs to enable free will for all. You cannot reject that which you do not understand or know.
    – steveowen
    Aug 31 at 5:03
  • @user48152 How do you mean that we don't have free will? Let me respond with two points that you might not expect. 1) If we could see all of human history as God sees it, no, we would not have free will (that is, we could see what we will do tomorrow, irrespective of we want to do today). 2) We cannot see things from God's perspective as human beings. From God's point of view there is only that which takes place, nothing more. However, because we do not share that perspective, from our point of view, I would argue that we do indeed have free will. So, I'm not sure what you mean.
    – Xeno
    Aug 31 at 5:27
  • You are making it too complicated. Re my comment to the Q, while a deception remains, FW is retarded to the points where it is so damaged/hindered it no longer exists. Only when the deception is lifted can FW exist.
    – steveowen
    Aug 31 at 5:33
  • @user48152 Ah, OK.
    – Xeno
    Aug 31 at 6:03
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Everyone in whom there is not a "holder" the "katechon" (κατέχων) (cf. 2 Thes. 2:6-7) of the sinful drives, and this Holder is the Lord Himself, His Father and the Spirit, of whom living temples we should be (1 Cor. 6:19), will be driven away and manipulated by sinful passions and, thus, also by fallen spiritual powers that feed upon those passions.

If one does not eat healthy food, one will necessarily eat unhealthy food for sustenance of life; similarly with food of our souls: if one does not fill soul with eternal, divine things, then it will necessarily be filled with temporal things and interests, carried away by them and becoming a plaything of them and demons who delight in seeing human soul in similar depravity as themselves. "Our souls are love" writes W. B. Yeats in one of his inspired poems, for they cannot live without love, but, for instance, when we despair and lose hope in finding true romantic love, which is a divine gift and pure, then we will be inclined to yield to lust and lewd sex, that will make us utterly miserable for a dark glee of demons.

Therefore, if we want to be free from sinful drives and demonic manipulations, we should have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us together with the Son and the Father (for Spirit cannot dwell without Them also co-dwelling), for where is the Holy Spirit, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).

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Is Paul suggesting that human beings are willing participants manipulated to commit evil?

Firstly, mankind is not willing participants. We are unwittingly stooges of evil - not by choice - but by default.

Secondly, are they manipulated? Yes.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. John 8:44

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matt 12:34

There are numerous examples of those who are 'evil' contrasted with the 'good'. There is no choice for the those under the influence of evil - it is who they are! Children of the devil - what chance have they got to choose anything other? None! Not until God removes the influence or downgrades it with His spirit.

When you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ Col 2:13

Once made alive, we are able to see the deception of evil that made us dead and out of which we operated. We labour with this reality until our change at Christ's return.

No amount of truth telling or gospel preaching will change the default - unless God expressly calls someone out of the death/darkness/deceit they lived in.

Thus, freewill is not a reality for any person under deception. They don't really choose anything as their default is evil. Once relieved of deception to any degree, freewill can begin to operate and grow - forming an increasing desire for good and right. Obviously, for the purposes of explanation, I have described this matter in black and white terms. An reality, all men possess some kind of good, this of course is of God and varies greatly within each person.

Once Christ returns, Satan is banished for 1000 yrs and freewill will finally begin for the masses.

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