Copyright 2004 by Michael Martin, Researcher, Answers In Action
If you were to go to any time in history, to any nation or people, you would find a common yet critical element in the way society relates to and deals with the frailty of peaceful co-existence: authority. Without it mankind could not function in any productive or meaningful way and nothing but chaos would result. From the heads of state to the family and the Church, respect for and the need for authority is crucial. This is equally true in the spiritual world as well. The Bible is clear to point out the need as well as the role and purpose for authority in both dimensions (Matt. 8:5-10, Luke 11-20, Eph. 4-11, Rom. 13:1-2).
Although all Christians would agree that Christ is our victory, the behavior of some Christians betrays their biblical confession. There has been much confusion over the power and authority of the kingdom of darkness over and in the lives of believers. An undue amount of fear and anxiousness by Christians, with Satan around every corner, has led to bizarre and irrational strategies in confronting the world, the devil and personal moral evil.
With zealous fervor, many Christians are engaging in what has been termed “Spiritual Warfare.” They have taken to heart the scripture’s assertion that “We war not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6-12) but they have done so without an understanding of the biblical foundation for that warfare. For all believers the unseen world is not a fictional cosmos but a reality that has had, and continues to have, implications for all. Satan and his fellow demons have waged war against God and his people since Adam and have sought to bring defeat and disgrace upon both. As the Martin Luther hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, says, “With cruel and dreadful might, he arms himself to fight, on earth he has no equal.” In the New Testament he is called a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and Jesus calls him “The father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). If the Devil is described with such fierce language, how is the Christian to stand against such a vicious opponent? Contrary to what many Christian leaders proclaim, and the way many Christians think, victory is not to be found in some larger-than-life battlefield.
Victory in the daily struggle against evil is not to be found in the strange or sensational, but in the ordinary, mundane acts of biblical living. Temptation to evil is a common experience in which every decision made to yield or resist rests squarely upon the individual and not the tempter. Christians are not pawns in the cosmic game of good and evil, but free moral agents whose relationship to God and evil is clearly set forth in the scripture. It is how one views these relationships that will determine their usefulness or the lack thereof in living for the Kingdom of God.
With this in view, I will explain the art of spiritual warfare from the scriptures. Those who prefer the exciting anecdotal stories of haunted houses, demon possessed pastors, or creaks in the attic will not find this to be a particularly exciting article. But for those grappling with the boring yet crucial fight for righteousness, this will be a welcome guide.
Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.”
In the human condition this admonition is impossible. We are born enemies of God and are by nature objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3). However, by the power of the Gospel we who believe are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:18). We have a new relationship with God through our High Priest and Savior, Jesus Christ. Once we decided to be held captive by the power of the Devil to do his will; we have now decided to be led captive by Christ to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26, Eph. 4:28). Our minds are no longer enslaved to evil but are now destined to be renewed in truth (Rom. 6:1-5). We now can lay the groundwork for a strong and enduring sanctifying process. The Bible says that “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but in the end leads to destruction” (Prov. 6:1-5). If we are to avoid this tragedy we will need to know what is true, lovely, and of good repute. God’s Word will be sufficient. Jerimiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Notice how human moral depravity is not laid at the feet of unseen devils but in the human heart. If you belong to Christ, the devil can’t make you do anything you may not already be considering yourself. The apostle Paul says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). If you are struggling with evil thoughts and emotions, take them captive through the Word of God. This is not an overnight remedy but a difficult transformation of one’s previous wicked nature into the image and likeness of Christ. It involves reading, understanding, and meditating upon the rich principles and truths of scripture on a daily basis.
Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Here the Christian is admonished to live a morally acceptable life before God, which comes about by renewing and conforming our minds to the Word of God. The scriptures say, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The acts of the body cannot be accomplished without the mind. If you are conforming to that which is true and of good repute, then more than likely your body is, too. The scriptures clearly teach that our bodies are the temple of the Lord (1 Cor. 6:19). If you are leading a morally defeated lifestyle, it is not because of generational curses, or a demon possessing one of your particular body parts: you are not renewing your mind with the Word of God. The Psalmist says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). The daily study of God’s Word will empower you to know and do the will of God. When being tempted, Christ said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). If we are to have the spiritual strength to stand and resist the world, Satan, and our own depravity, we will most certainly need his life-giving Word.
Isaiah 8:13-14: “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary…”
Too many fear the devil rather than the God who created the heavens and the earth. God says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). God is the one who has the authority to cast both body and soul into hell, not Satan (Luke 12:5). It is God who saves and destroys and who is the final judge. Where is the “fear” (awe and respect) of the Lord in our Christian living? Yes, he saved us; yes he loves us, but this in no way implies weakness or lack of moral expectation on God’s part. He says, “Be holy as I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). The Bible does not give a dualistic view of the universe. Satan is not God’s opposite; he is a limited, finite, created being in rebellion toward his Creator. He has been judged and is awaiting the fulfillment of his sentence (Rev. 20:10). As Christians we should be searching the scriptures diligently to know our God (Jer. 9:23-24). The knowledge and the fear of the Lord should dispel any over-emphasizing of the power of Satan or the world.
Colossians 2:14-15: “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When he had disarmed the rulers and authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through him.”
This is the cornerstone and sine qua non for the Christian’s triumph over evil. Whatever adversity we may endure, or any encounter we may have with a power or principality that is opposed to God, our peace in his Son; they have been rendered powerless by his cross. This is a matter of authority. Jesus said to his disciples after he had risen from the dead, “All authority in heaven and in earth has been given unto me” (Matt. 28:18). Too many Christians are forgetting this truth and surrendering to a disarmed and defeated enemy. They regard the emotional weight of an experience to be more truthful than the Word of God; and they stumble in their fear and confusion. Rather than take the difficult task of renewing and conforming their minds to biblical truth, they are led by the nose with laughing revivals and powerless deliverance ministries telling them to barf out their devils. They are not getting to the heart of the Gospel that has already given them the deliverance they need. “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). The scriptures tell us that we are not our own, that we have been purchased with the blood of God’s own Son. If the Creator of the heavens and the earth says you are free, you can discount any experience that might lead you to believe the opposite.
Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
As Christians we enter into a new relationship with God through Christ and we start to embrace his Word and set our minds on what is good and true. We will, however, on occasion act in disobedience and choose not to do what is right. We need to repent and once again refresh our minds with the Word of God. When we do fail, we can reassure ourselves that in Christ we are not condemned. Satan is the accuser of the saints but his condemnation of our actions has no power or authority in God’s presence. As the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The power of the gospel of God has set us free from the guilt and punishment of our sin.
Romans 8:37: “But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We are not immune to personal tragedies and physical and emotional sufferings. These bodies shall one day be raised immortal and holy but for now we are all subject to the corrupted process brought into the world by sin. As long as we live in this world the potential for the consequences of the acts of oppressive godless persons, whether they are human or demonic, remains a possibility. The apostles and many in the early church suffered greatly for their confession of Christ. In the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews we are given a list of those whose lives on earth were less than pleasant, yet their steadfast faith and hope in the love of God did not fail them. Their eyes were on the city, whose builder and architect is God, an eternal city where only righteousness dwells (Heb. 11:10). If we are to endure hostility and suffering and hold on to our faith, it is imperative that we know the God of truth. If he says that the trials of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed (Rom. 8:18), then our hearts and minds can conform to his promise of unfailing love. We cannot and should not judge our relationship with God on the basis of pleasant or unpleasant circumstances but upon what God has revealed in his word. From Genesis to Revelation we have a sure covenant that God will never forsake his people. No matter who, what, where, when or how, the God of all comfort shall keep and strengthen his people. Psalm 107:117-18 says, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Whatever evils we may face, from the devil or man, God has promised that nothing will separate us from his love.
Ephesians 6:13-18: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
This particular passage sums up everything previously mentioned. It codifies the art of spiritual warfare with poetic beauty and urgency. The Christian’s call to war is not illustrated as a glorious champion marching over the dead carcass of his enemy, but of one who simply stands clothed in God’s protection, Christ. We are girded with the truth. Jesus said, “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
He is our righteousness. The scriptures say, “Through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” (Rom. 5:18).
Before Jesus ascended unto his Father, he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). We have the duty and honor of proclaiming the gospel of peace to all men, that all might have fellowship with their Creator and Redeemer.
Our shield of faith is in a God with whom there is no shadow of turning. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Though our experiences can frustrate and confuse us, God’s thoughts and intentions never change. If he said he will not forsake you, you can comfort yourself in his word of promise.
Christ is our salvation. The protection of our hearts and minds are guaranteed in Christ (Phil. 4:19), and it is through his divine authority that Satan and his kingdom have been undone. Jesus said, “If I cast out devils by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:30). He is the Great Shepherd and no one can pluck his sheep from his hand (Jon 10:11).
In the pages of scripture God has recorded the decrees and laws of his divine will. He has shown us his great love for humankind by promising and sending the only begotten of God to bear our sins. He is the supreme authority, the creator of heaven and earth. He has made both men and principalities and powers, and all are subject to him (John 1:3). His word is our confidence. If you are facing strange and fiery trials, remember what the scripture says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). This does not mean that we are to enjoy suffering and temptation but as those who trust in the living God, our perseverance will produce a life that is pleasing to Christ (Rom. 5:3). Christ conquered sin and death (1 Cor. 15:56-57), he is the great I AM and the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). If we are in him, how is it possible that any created thing could separate us from the love of the creator?
The pieces of armor described by Paul in this passage of Ephesians are the foundational aspects of our daily Christian walk. They are not specially reserved magical tricks or outlandish actions only aimed against evil. They are the very principles we should be observing and practicing every day of our Christian lives. When our focus is on Christ in us and on the power of the Holy Spirit working in us daily to transform us into the image of Christ, we will have no time to focus on what is evil, demonic, or satanic – our lives will be consumed with Christ. There is, then, no room for evil.
Phil. 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It is important that we maintain a vigilant prayer life. The apostle Paul exhorts us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). It is not for God’s benefit that we pray – he already knows all things: “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13). Prayer keeps us aware of our constant dependence upon Christ and reminds us that God is the source of our daily bread, as Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Most people make the mistake of going to the Lord only in times of need or in times of trouble, and in so doing we rob ourselves of the joy of intimacy with God. King David understood the benefit of communion with his creator: “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In thy presence is fullness of joy; In thy right hand are pleasures forever” (Ps. 16:11). Also, when we are struggling with a particularly difficult issue, whether it is sin, sickness, or emotional turmoil, patience is the last thing we want to exercise. Remember Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)? The Lord gives an example of arguing from the lesser to the greater. If a godless judge will give justice to a poor widow only because he is tired of seeing her in his court, how much more will the God of justice and truth come to the aid of his own children? Once again, if we are renewing our minds in the word of God, our hearts and minds can rest in the knowledge that God is near to the brokenhearted, and that he looks upon those with a broken and contrite spirit, who tremble at his word (Ps. 34:18, Is. 66:2).
Psalm 103:2-5: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of his benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”
Prayer and worship are not magical formulas or chants that somehow ward off evil spirits or stroke the ego of an angry God. When we begin to see how much the Lord has done for us, and grow and mature in the knowledge and wisdom of Christ, we cannot help but praise God for who he is and the amazing grace and love he offered at his own enormous cost. Prayer and worship flow naturally from the hearts of those who know and trust their God. We love him because he first loved us. God is our champion and our vindication, he created us and knows us by name. He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, shut the lion’s mouth for his servant Daniel, and sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins and to bring us back to himself. God has done everything to make himself known to man, but the world still refuses to recognize him. As the Body of his Son Christ Jesus, we of all people should trust and praise our God. As the Psalmist asks rhetorically, “Whom have I in heaven but you?” (Ps. 73:25). Conform your mind to the Word of God, present your body a living sacrifice to him, fear him because your very existence depends upon him, believe in the victory of Christ through his cross, and rest in the redemption he has graciously provided. Remain in his unfailing love where nothing can separate you from him, and abide in Christ, your holy armor and everlasting protector. As the scripture says, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5).
Spiritual Warfare is a minute to minute, day to day battle, and it is fought with quiet confidence in the one to whom all will give an account, and that includes any enemies we might have, seen or unseen. All that God has provided, he offers with great love, and the historical proof of his commitment to our well being is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The scripture says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7). It is the gospel of divine love that has set you free! You are God’s child. He will not, and has not, abandoned you to evil. If you are tormented by sin, afraid of the power of darkness; If you have tried the laughing revivals, throwing up personal demons and rebuking spirits of lust, lying, anger and doubt; the Great Shepherd says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).
Answers In Action recommends the following books for further information on this subject:
|The Covering by Hank Hanegraaff. (see also CRI’s web site)|
|Power Encounters by David A. Powlison.|
|Testing the Spirits by Elizabeth L. Hillstrom.|