"For 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." (Ephesians 6:12)There are many things that seek to rattle our cages. As we go through each day, we often find things that seek to oppose us and derail us from our faith and consistency with Christ. However, far too often, when we try and war against these forces, our contention is misdirected and aimed at the wrong actors. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Your enemy is not our spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors, or those of your family. Far too often these people become the recipients of our war against those things that seem to upset us, but they are not the problem, They are the unfortunate ones who are the closest to us so they are the ones who receive our frustration, our rebuffs, and our aimless flailing against our ever present opponent. Our unfortunate misdirection of force only serves to hurt those near us and perpetuate the influence of the enemy in our lives. We need to learn that people are not our enemies but rather our enemies are more powerful, unseen, and ready to exploit any weakness that may be in us for their own ends.
Paul mentions four things, or classes of influence in our lives, which we do and ought to struggle against. The first is rulers. Darby translates this as "principalities". These are chief rulers; those given authority over specific domains. They were created as rulers, given both permission and empowering to rule by their authority. They hold sway over large areas and large groups of people. They may even be seen to govern over specific sins, such as drunkenness, and certain maladies such as leprosy and mental illness.
The second is powers. These are those who have been given power and authority to act by the principalities they server. Darby translates this word as simply "authorities." There exists a host of minions doing the work and bidding of various principalities. We can think of these as the many demons who serve and work under the authority of higher ranking and ruling principalities of demons. These can be compared to the little foxes that Solomon refers to. "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)
Third are the world forces of darkness. Darby translates this as "universal lords of darkness," The Greek word for "world forces" is a combination of two Greek words. The first is the word "kosmos" which indicates all of this created realm, and especially this world. The second word can be translated "to seize or retain". I believe that this phrase refers specifically to Satan as the ruler of this world. It is curious that this word is translated in the plural and perhaps includes the many antichrists of which John says, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)
Lastly, Paul names "spiritual forces of wickedness." There is a whole host of non-corporal beings that are at work in the unseen real whose mission is wickedness. It is not simply that their mission is to spread wickedness, but their mission is to menace, scheme, and agitate those who are seeking to live a godly life. They are bent on our destruction and our derailment from the abundant life God has for us. What is most important to learn is, these forces are not seen but invisible. Those we can see are not the enemy. If we live our lives fighting against people, we will one day find that we have been fighting the wrong forces and we will only fight to provide the enemy greater access and place in our lives. Our fight against people will only serve to increase the influence of wickedness in our lives. We must look beyond the human origins of our disturbances to see the unseen forces at work behind them. Then we must learn to fight a spiritual battle while we leave unmolested the people around us whom we previously accused as the source of our agitation. We must learn to fight the right fight and to oppose the real source of power that is against us.