Spiritual warfare is a popular topic in many churches. At times, it can be over-emphasized. Some Christians will blame and rebuke the devil for everything! If they sin, they blame the devil (even though James 1:14–15 suggest we are to blame for our sins). If they run out of money, it must be the devil’s fault (even if they were financially irresponsible). To them, everything from their own sin to the consequences of their ill-advised choices becomes the devil’s fault. Instead of confessing their sins and choosing to walk in obedience to God, they blame the devil and simply rebuke him in an attempt to solve their problems.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (Second Corinthians 10:4–6).
The Christian life cannot be reduced to yelling at the devil. Some believers go overboard with a false notion of spiritual warfare, reducing it to a habit of rebuking Satan. However, this does not mean Christians should avoid spiritual warfare entirely. It is mentioned throughout Scripture: biblical writers frequently use battle imagery to describe our conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil. However, we must approach this topic with a balanced view, recognizing its relationship to the rest of Scripture.
It seems particularly appropriate to me that this subject would come up in the midst of an extended series about “renewal of the mind” and immediately after writing an article that addresses the lies of the prosperity gospel. Many of the people who endorse the false teachings that claim great earthly blessings for Christians will also usually “rebuke Satan” when they do not get what they want. A false view of the blessings of the Gospel seems to coincide with an extremely unbalanced view about spiritual warfare.
Over the next few posts, I will share a few thoughts on this subject. I hope to address what it is, what it is not, and how we engage in such a battle.
Second Corinthians 10:4–6 seems to be an ideal place to begin our study. It reminds us of several key facts: First, that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual because the real battle is spiritual. Second, that spiritual warfare is integrated with the renewal of the mind, since much of the spiritual battle is emotional and intellectual. Third, spiritual warfare should lead us to obedience to Christ. Spiritual warriors will immediately recognize that some of these points overlap with Ephesians 6:10–18, where Paul introduces us to the whole armor of God.
First, we must remember that spiritual warfare is exactly what it claims to be: Spiritual warfare. We use spiritual weapons against a spiritual enemy. We do not use the weapons of our world. They are not “of the flesh,” because our real enemy is not a physical being. Ephesians 6:12 says that our enemies are spiritual: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” When Christians say that our real enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil, we are not talking about natural physical entities. The “world,” in this sense, is a cultural (or inter-cultural) way of thinking and living that is contrary to God. The “flesh” is that part of ourselves that seeks self-gratification, without regard to the will of God. The devil, of course, is a personal spiritual entity in rebellion against God.
These are our enemies. Our enemies are not that political party that we did not vote for in the last election, nor the politician we do not like. They are not even members of non-Christian religions (although, I believe most people who have not accepted Christ are deceived by the devil, but that makes them victims in the spiritual battle). Our greatest enemies are Satan and his demons. Our greatest threats are their lies and deception, because Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). We need to recognize who our enemy is so that we can maintain our focus. Far too many Christians are fighting the wrong battles, using the wrong weapons.
In Part II of this series, we will look at the sword of the Spirit, which is our primary weapon in waging war against the enemy. We will also see what it means to “destroy strongholds.”
Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.