“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:11–13

“Forewarned is forearmed” they say, but that only works if you care about what is being warned against and take the time to be proficient in “arms.” It is absurd to know there is danger but not take steps to forcibly avoid it; if you cannot avoid it, forcibly dissuade it; and then, if you cannot dissuade it, forcibly stop it. Common sense realism recognizes that weakness invites aggression. It is imperative to accept the facts that evil exists and is ubiquitous. Not only does one need to know how to defend himself in the face of evil but one must also recognize the face of evil, or no amount of forewarning or forearming will avail.

Our text presents the face behind the evil in our world. Satan is the enemy of every man, especially of believers, because he is the mortal enemy of God. Satan is a master of disguises and his wiles are mimicked by his dupes, as 2 Corinthians 11:14f says: “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

Evil is quite simply anything that is opposed to the nature of God, therefore evil may be recognized as anything that stands opposed to the things that God loves and the ones that God loves. God is holy, true, perfect, and keeps His Word. Evil is profane, misses the mark, is inconsistent, and is disloyal. Our Lord knew the face of pure evil and, of Satan. He said, “[The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

It is imperative that saints learn to identify evil, whether in person or in ideology. Compromise between good and evil does not make evil better, instead evil remains poison while good becomes dilute and dangerous. Good always gets perverted while evil remains its vile, depraved self. This is the reason that a sinner cannot save himself. No amount of self-righteousness, reform, or religion can transform an unregenerate man into a child of God. Conversion must be by direct miracle of God giving him a new nature. Salvation is purely by grace. Once you are saved you declare that you are the enemy of all that is the enemy of God, and soon the enemy will identify you as the enemy. These are the evil powers spoken of by Paul, the powers behind the faces of evil in our world.

For the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of your purity, for the sake of the fellowship of the saints, for the sake of your safety, and for the sake of your usefulness to Christ, you must school yourself and learn to recognize evil behind its many facades. Now that you are forewarned by verses 11–12, it is time to forearm. Take on the whole armor of God for the game is afoot and the battle is on (Jude 3)!

The first step is to be constantly vigilant to defend against evil. Half of vigilance is remembering there actually is an enemy of your soul and of all you hold dear. The other half is constantly preening yourself of creeping spiritual laziness. We all know that we ought to be in attendance to the preaching of the Word and that we ought to be consistent in personal devotions. The old expression still obtains, “The Bible will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from the Bible!” Ephesians 5:26f reminds us of the cleansing work of the Word. It is the Word of God that the Holy Spirit will use to keep you on the “straight and narrow.” Judge all things by the Word of God (John 17:17, 7:24).

The second step is to regularly revisit biblical texts that delineate sin and sinful behaviors. There are many “sin lists” found in Scriptures. You would do well, since your senses are under the constant bombardment of worldliness (in some cases, outright evil) to follow a plan of revisiting the sin list texts at regular intervals. Maybe you should make it a habit just before observing communion to read one of the sin-list texts and ask God to point out where you have dropped your guard. Start your list with the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 and the Lord’s explanation of them in Matthew 5–7; review the passage preceding the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19ff; visit Ephesians 4:25–5:7, Proverbs 6:16ff, 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, or Titus 3:1–10, just to identify a few. Do not lose your sense of “holy horror” at sin.

Finally, pray, pray, pray (Luke 11:1ff, James 1:5) and take your stand.

Genesis 2:16f tells us that man has a conscience to recognize good and evil. What makes discernment difficult is that there are degrees of evil (Revelation 20:12), just as there are stages to it (James 1:14ff), and yet common to all evil is the signature of evil—deception (Romans 7:11, Hebrews 3:13). Listen thoughtfully to the mature saints around you (Ephesians 4:11–16) and exercise your own spiritual senses of discernment (Hebrews 5:14). Trust and obey.