My friend Steve Davis requested that I write about spiritual warfare, so here goes…
What is Spiritual Warfare?
In the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, A. S. Moreau states, “spiritual warfare essentially encompasses Satan’s rebellion against God and the manifestations of that rebellion in the created order.” He continues, “The threads of Satan’s rebellion and God’s loving response are interwoven through the Scriptures as an ongoing drama played out on the stage of human history.”
Satan was an angel, created sometime between Day 7 of the Creation Week in Genesis 2:3, and Genesis 3:1, before the fall of Adam. He led a rebellion in heaven, and 1/3 of the angels were cast out of heaven as a result. They became what we know as the devil and demons, and were given dominion of the earth after Adam’s fall, where they have been wreaking havoc ever since.
For the believer in Jesus Christ, there are two key verses that define spiritual warfare from our perspective:
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NKJV)
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
The Promise of Victory over Satan
Numerous passages of Scripture promise those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ victory over Satan and the demons:
James 4:7-8a – Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
1 John 4:3-4 – Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 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.
Satan’s Battle Tactics
In order to win a war, one must understand the tactics used by the enemy. Satan’s main battle tactic is to call into question the Word of God.
Genesis 3:1-5 – Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Notice that Satan began by questioning God’s Word: “Has God indeed said…?” Once the woman started questioning God’s trustworthiness, Satan changed tactics, totally denying God’s Word: “You will not surely die…”
Satan and the demons are liars. In John 8:44, Jesus told the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
Satan attacks people today through similar means. He attempts to convince non-believers that they don’t need Jesus Christ; and he tries to get Christians to doubt God’s Word.
The Christian’s Counter-Offensive
How should those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior equip ourselves for spiritual battle? Using the metaphor of armor, Paul explains how to the Christian:
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
What is Paul telling the Christian through this metaphor? In Paul’s day, a soldier wore a loose-fitting tunic that would be a hindrance during hand-to-hand combat. A belt was used to cinch up the tunic before battle. Paul is saying that for the Christian, the truth is what “cinches up” that which hinders us. The breastplate was used to protect a soldier’s vital organs; God’s righteousness, applied to the Christian’s life through obedience, is the chief protection against Satan. Roman soldiers wore boots with nails in them to grip the ground, similar to football or soccer cleats. The good news of the Gospel is what gives the Christian a firm foundation and peace. Soldiers used a large shield to ward off blows from their enemies; faith is what the Christian uses to deflect the attacks of Satan. The helmet protected the head; the assurance of salvation is what protects our minds from doubts and discouragement. Lastly, the sword was the soldier’s primary offensive weapon. The Word of God – the Bible – is the Christian’s offensive weapon. With the Bible, we can destroy Satan’s lies.
Spiritual warfare is very real. Satan and the demons are constantly seeking to destroy the Christian through lies, doubts, and other kinds of attacks. The Christian must defend against these attacks by relying on the truth, living a righteous life, founding their life on the Gospel of Christ, having faith in God’s protection, being assured of their salvation, and wielding the Word of God. God has promised us victory over Satan and the demons; we may lose some battles, but the war has already been won through the blood of Jesus Christ.