I woke up this morning with a realization that one of the most neglected disciplines in our Christian culture today (for those professing faith in Jesus Christ), especially in light of the fact that our society is becoming increasingly more secular and less religious, is regarding the subject of spiritual warfare. I have published several blog posts over the past dozen years on this topic beginning with a post published on January 18, 2012, titled, “Regaining Our Balance.” Two other posts that come to mind include, “The Surest Defense Against Evil,” published on May 25, 2014, and “Penetrating the Darkness,” published on May 13, 2016. While I don’t need to repeat what I’ve published previously, the topic of spiritual warfare is very important today and every day. I did notice that my writing style has changed over the years since I published those posts…
GotQuestions.org provides the following information on what the Bible states about spiritual warfare:
There are two primary errors when it comes to spiritual warfare—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons that need to be cast out. Others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers. The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. Jesus sometimes cast demons out of people; other times He healed people with no mention of the demonic. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and warns us to oppose the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10–18).
Ephesians 6:10–12 says, “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.” This text teaches some crucial truths: we can only stand strong in the Lord’s power, it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world.
Ephesians 6:13–18 is a description of the spiritual armor God gives us. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and by praying in the Spirit. What do these pieces of spiritual armor represent in spiritual warfare? We are to know the truth, believe the truth, and speak the truth. We are to rest in the fact that we are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance we face. We are not to waver in our faith, trusting God’s promises no matter how strongly we are attacked. Our ultimate defense is the assurance we have of our salvation, an assurance that no spiritual force can take away. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God, not our own opinions and feelings. And we are to pray in the power and will of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is our ultimate example of resisting temptation in spiritual warfare. Observe how Jesus handled direct attacks from Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). Each temptation was combatted with the words “it is written.” The Word of the living God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
A word of caution concerning spiritual warfare is in order. The name of Jesus is not a magic incantation that causes demons to flee from before us. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of what can happen when people presume an authority they have not been given (Acts 19:13–16). Even Michael the archangel did not rebuke Satan in his own power but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). When we start talking to the devil, we run the risk of being led astray as Eve was (Genesis 3:1–7). Our focus should be on God, not demons; we speak to Him, not them.
In summary, what are the keys to success in spiritual warfare? We rely on God’s power, not our own. We put on the whole armor of God. We draw on the power of Scripture—the Word of God is the Spirit’s sword. We pray in perseverance and holiness, making our appeal to God. We stand firm (Ephesians 6:13–14); we submit to God; we resist the devil’s work (James 4:7), knowing that the Lord of hosts is our protector. “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2). (Quote source here.)
In an article titled, “Confronting Reality of Spiritual Warfare,” by Dr. Sam Storms, Pastor Emeritus at Bridgeway Church; member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition and past President of the Evangelical Theological Society; he writes a lengthy article on this topic which is available at this link.
In his article, Dr. Storms states three observations regarding spiritual warfare. Under item #3–People often respond to the call to spiritual arms in one of two ways: either with obsessive preoccupation… or with complacent indifference…, he lists “Twelve reasons why Christians are tragically ignorant of and dangerously ill-prepared for spiritual warfare”. That list includes the following (see article for descriptions on each of the reasons listed below):
- Ignorance of the Bible [and ignorance regarding spiritual warfare]
- Irrelevance of the Bible [trivialization; irrelevant for our day]
- The victory of the cross [passive instead of active application]
- The fear of imbalance [do nothing; unbalanced, experience-oriented theology]
- The fear of sensationalism [also leading to unbalanced, experience-oriented theology]
- Insulated life-styles [docile and decent lives; Why rock the boat?]
- The Christian and demonization [belief that a Christian cannot be demonized]
- The paralyzing fear of fanaticism [disdain and/or emotional instability or theological ignorance]
- Compartmentalizing [spiritual warfare pertains largely, if not exclusively, to such things as ritualistic sacrifice, seances, ouija boards, tarot cards, etc.]
- Western worldview [if you can’t see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, or hear it, it probably doesn’t exist]
- Mission field mentality [belief that spiritual warfare happens only on the mission field in the non-western world]
- The insidious power of pride [the reality of spiritual warfare has almost disappeared from our thinking; also, risk of scorn from our peers; risk ridicule] (Source here.)
The notes in brackets are brief descriptions of each item listed that I have included after reading the descriptions in the article. Complete descriptions of each item by the author are available at this link.
In an article titled, “Spiritual Warfare is Real, Difficult, and Dangerous,” by Jason Jackson, minister for the East Main Church of Christ, and contributor at the Christian Courier, he opens his article with the following paragraph:
We are in the fight of our lives. But standing at the eighteenth hole on a gorgeous spring morning, one might hardly feel in danger. This conflict, however, is very real. Paul lays emphasis on the reality of this struggle, stressing that it is both difficult and dangerous. Will we never seriously put on the whole armor of God if we do not believe that this spiritual battle is real, difficult, and dangerous? Charles Hodge expressed it like this: “Salvation, however gratuitous, is not to be obtained without great effort” (“Ephesians,” Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994, p. 210). (Quote source and the rest of his article are available at this link.)
Perhaps that is the biggest tragedy–that many people who consider themselves to be Christians in America do not take seriously the very real spiritual battle we are in every single day, whether we are on a golf course standing at the eighteenth hole on a gorgeous spring morning, or we are struggling with a doctor’s report, or a job loss, a broken home, homelessness, drug addiction, and the list goes on. Spiritual warfare is very, very real. Paul explains it clearly in Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV):
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. 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 Lord’s people.
The Message Bible states Ephesians 6:10-18 as follows:
And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
I read these words from James found in James 1:2-27 (NIV) this morning as I was thinking about the topic of spiritual warfare, and they are good closing thoughts for this post:
Trials and Temptations
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Listening and Doing
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 18:2 (NIV): The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield…
And the horn . . .
Of my salvation . . .
My stronghold . . . .
YouTube Video: “Help Is On The Way” by TobyMac: