Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (NIV)
Whether you are a new believer or an experienced saint, you may not realize something very important--you are a soldier in an ongoing war. This is not the philosophical “struggle between good and evil,” but is part of an ancient rebellion between the forces of Satan and the Almighty God. This is not a battle between equals--there is no comparison between the power and knowledge of the Almighty and the relatively weak opposition that is doomed to fail. In a sense, there is no real struggle, for the battle is progressing according to God’s plan, and God wins in the end.
There is an unseen world--there are spiritual forces that we cannot see, but they affect our world and wage constant battle in and around human society. On the one side are Satan and his demon forces. Satan was originally the high point of God’s creation--he was the chief of God’s heavenly beings, and was a creature of beauty and praise to God. However, he became jealous, desired to become God, and rebelled against the Almighty. Originally his demons were angels--God’s special messengers, whose purpose was to glorify Him and minister to His people. However, a portion of the angels (the Bible says one-third--Rev 12) rebelled against God under the leadership of Satan, and became what we know now as demons. Satan and his demons have powers that seem awesome to humans. The goal of the demonic forces is to harass, attack, and corrupt Christians, prevent conversions, and dishonor God.
On the other side of the eternal conflict are God and the Holy Angels. The Angels are perfect, sinless, and also very powerful.. They are ministering spirits that carry out God’s plan, and who work for the benefit of God’s people. Their goal is the carrying out of the great commission, and the saving of God’s people. The people of God, born-again believers, are part of this angelic army, as well as being protected by its hosts.
Currently, there are two extreme viewpoints about the Holy War, with a small middle ground in between. On one side are those who, because of a fear of anything even remotely charismatic, either ignore the Holy War, totally reject our having any role in it, or adopt a strange kind of mystic agnosticism about it. They admit such a thing exists, but are unwilling to go past that admission to a study of it or taking part in it. On the other side are those (mainly in the charismatic camp) who either adopt a mystical approach that is unbiblical, or who go ‘way out of bounds and see a demon under every tree--like the McCarthyites of the 1950’s saw a communist behind every bush. The Truth about Spiritual Warfare is in between these two extremes. We will look at six area that may help us understand the Holy War: (1) There is a war; (2) the battle is the Lord’s; (3) our part in the battle; (4) our weapons described; (5) the problem of speculation and superstition; (6) the solution--study, believe and obey God’s Word.
There is a was going on. It began with a rebellion in heaven (Isa 14:12; Rev 12:7-9), and has had many skirmishes (Dan. 10:12-13, for example). The Bible lets us know some things about the method of the enemy (1 Pet 5:8; Job 1:8-12, etc.), and we are graciously given some glances of the armies of the LORD (Josh 5:13-15; 2 Kings 6). However, the Bible does not explain the Holy War in detail; the rules of engagement are not carefully drawn up for our understanding, and we are given only a few insights as to the specific composition of the armies involved. Most of the war remains hidden from our sight. Unlike the doctrines of salvation, the Deity of Christ, or the other doctrines that are vital and basic to the faith, we are given no minute details on the nature of the war or its players.
The Battle is the LORD’s--it is God’s battle, not ours. As with any military campaign among the nations of man, the commander determines the course of the battle, assigns the duties, and conducts any conversations that take place with the enemy. With God’s army, the Commander does even more. He Himself bears the sword in battle (Josh 5:13-15; Ex 15:3). He personally commands a vast army of heavenly hosts that is at His beck and call (Matt 26:52), and He often tells us, His earthly army, to merely stand and watch while He does the work (2 Chr 20:15; 1 Sam 17:47; Ex 14:11-14; Deut 1:30; 3:22; 20:4; Josh 10:14, 22; 23:3, 10). Just as the Old Testament battles were God’s, so with gospel salvation and evangelization. He gives us a charge to evangelize the world, but His power insures its success (Matt 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, Rev 17:14) “The Battle is the LORD’s”
Though the battles of the Holy War are mainly fought out of our sight, we do have a part in them. Our part, however, is not mystical, magical, exalted, or highly visible, and it is not flashy or earth shattering. We are told to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-9); we are to cast down imaginations and strongholds in the minds and hearts of people and bring every thought into obedience to the gospel (2 Cor 10:4-6). We are to take the Word of God to all the world (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Thess. 1:8) and continually study to show ourselves approved by God (2 Tim 2:15). This is how Christians war! We are not to war with voodoo-like incantations, or prayers of “claiming” or “dominance,” nor are we to war with human philosophy (1 Cor 2:1-6)--we are to war with the pure Word of God. We fight the good fight with the gospel!
2 Corinthians 10:4 -6 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (NIV)
The verses above are among the most misapplied in the Bible. Often, preachers will quote them as justification for some kind of mystical, semi-magical powers to deal with demonic forces. These preachers tell us we are to “claim dominion,” and “declare our dominance,” and make real or imagined demons flee from us. While it is true that believers have authority over the other world, if they are in the will of God, and if they are following God’s directions, the normal way of conducting spiritual warfare is not direct confrontation with evil spirits.
Furthermore, we are never instructed to claim power over demonic forces and demand they depart, etc., as the normal “procedure” is in “deliverance” ministries. While the Bible relates instances of confrontation between our Lord and the demonic, we must realize that He was and is totally distinct from us in power, authority, and ability--He always knew God the Father’s will for His life, because He was God as well. As Appendix 1 told us, He retained all His power and authority while on earth. Indeed, there were several instances when demon forces were terrified by His very presence, because they knew who He was. There were also some confrontations between the apostles and the demonic, but they were relatively few and far between, and confrontations of that nature should only be attempted by pure-living and mature believers after much prayer and fasting. This type of direct confrontation was so rare that there are really few instructions on it in the Bible. The primary and ordinary type of spiritual warfare that should be part of everyday life for a believer, however, is described fully in the Bible, and that is the type of warfare that many ignore.
As the apostle says plainly in 2 Corinthians 10, quoted above, our weapons are those that demolish arguments, imaginations, and strongholds of error, and capture the thoughts of people to bring them into captivity. As we said before, our weapons have to do with the gospel. We have to put on “the full armor of God,” as we read in Ephesians 6:10-13 at the head of this Appendix. What is this armor?
Ephesians 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV)
The first weapon is the belt, or harness of Truth. Truth is the first mentioned, because it is the most vital, it is the basis for everything else. Even if we really possess righteousness and salvation, even if our faith is great, we will be a poor soldier without truth. Just as the Roman soldier’s belt or harness held all of his implements of warfare together, it is truth that gives us the framework within which to work. In the end times, those who love shows, spectacle, and signs and wonders will be lost--those who love and cherish the Truth will be saved.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (NIV)
The next piece is the Breastplate, the armor that protects the heart and vital parts of the soldier. For the Christian, this breastplate is righteousness, which is ours only by the finished work of Christ (Rom 3:21-4:25; Phil. 3:1-10). If we seek to go to war in our own righteousness, we are leaving a vital defensive link of our armor behind. On our feet is the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” In the Bible, stumblings are often mentioned in the walk of believers. If we have so learned the Gospel that its peace dominates us (Phil. 4:1-9), then our feet will not suffer injury on the battlefield of the Holy War.
Our shield is the shield of Faith. Notice that Faith is not an offensive weapon--we do not use faith to claim victory or to declare dominance. faith is defensive--when the enemy accuses us, when fiery darts are hurled at us, we prevail over the attack by our faith in Christ. When all seems lost, we “ walk by faith, not by sight.”
Our helmet is salvation. Our head cannot be crushed in the battle, because the impenetrable helmet of salvation protects us. If we are truly God’s children, we cannot perish in this battle (John 10:26-29; Rom 8:31-39). Such are the defensive weapons of our armor.
The two offensive weapons are the Sword of the Word of God, and the weapon that John Bunyan called “All-Prayer.” Just as Truth holds the whole of the armor together, and the Truth of the gospel protects our feet, the Truth of the Word of God casts down imaginations and overthrows strongholds in the hearts and minds of people. All-Prayer reminds us that the battle belongs to God--through it, we stay in contact with headquarters, and we can call for “air and artillery support,” from the Commander-In-Chief Himself.
This was not a complete rendition of all that you need to know about Spiritual Warfare, but it is a good start. The Suggested Reading Section below will help you find more help in this area. Remember, you ARE a soldier in God’s Army.