We wrestle against
Paul has just told us that we are not wrestling against human beings. He now directs our attention to who our true enemy is. He directs us to fight this enemy.
The word here is Greek is “arche” from which we get the English prefix “arch.” It is used in archangel, archenemy, arch-nemesis, etc. It simply means “rank” or “highest rank.” It is used here in the plural form. From this we see that we are fighting demons of many ranks and the devil of the highest rank. The demons are fallen angels. Each angel has its own rank or power. Paul here is showing us that our enemy is a multitude of fallen angels who vary in their rank and power and that the devil himself is of the highest rank. We need to be humble when achieving any level of victory over sin because a demon of higher rank will attack next.
Paul here moves from discussing demons’ ranks to showing their power. We know the tremendous power God has given to the angels; the fallen angels still retain these powers. Our enemy is much, much stronger than us. This is why we need to trust Christ for the victory and clothe ourselves in the armor He has provided.
Rulers of darkness
Paul is here showing us that in all the darkness of our world there are spiritual rulers, the demons. We tend to look at a place like Hollywood and decry the pedophiles and sinners there. Paul wants us to see that such places are ruled by demons. We want to “drain the swamp” but fail to realize that Washington is ruled over by demons not men. We want to reform a corrupt church but do not see that the true enemy is the spiritual forces ruling over the darkness there. This means that our hope is only the Gospel. Only Jesus is stronger than Satan. Only the Gospel can free men from the spiritual forces who hold them captive. Only the light of Jesus can dispel the darkness.
Spiritual wickedness in high places
The phrase here is literally “spiritual sins.” In other words, the devil is not merely found in others actions or in certain places. The devil and his demons are in spiritual sins that are beyond our view. We tend to only think of sin in its physical manifestations. However, some of the most heinous sins are spiritual not corporal. Spiritual sins are things like lust, pride, envy, covetousness, and hatred. These spiritual sins give birth to physical sins like adultery, slander, and murder. Many times our wrestling with the devil is going to be within our own minds and hearts.
Will you repent of your pride and seek to be clothed with Christ and His humility? Will you recognize the power of hell over men and fight with the power of the Gospel? Will you fight against unseen spiritual sins? Will you ask God to open your eyes so you can see your true enemy?