Spiritual Warfare

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 4, and in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 12, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are in a spiritual warfare which will continue until we meet the Lord in the clouds or in glory. In 1799, Washington wrote, ‘make them believe that offensive operation, often times, is the surest, if not the only (in some cases) means of defence’.1 In the spiritual warfare against Satan and his principalities, there are also defensive and offensive operations. Let us examine some biblical references of such operations.

‘Be ready’, 1 Pet. 3. 15

This verse is usually used by those who are defending biblical truth by giving biblical answers to the questions of those who are attacking the faith. Perhaps we might categorize this operation as, mainly, a defensive operation. We should never underestimate such an approach but rather encourage it to be used by all as we are thus commanded in this verse.

‘Resist’, 1 Pet. 5. 9; Jas. 4. 7; ‘stand’, Eph. 6. 13

The whole armour of God in Ephesians chapter 6 includes many defensive items, namely:

  • ‘Loins girt about with truth’, v. 14;
  • ‘Breastplate of righteousness’, v. 14;
  • ‘Shield of faith’, v. 16;
  • ‘Helmet of salvation’, v. 17;
  • Prayer, ‘in the Spirit … watching’, v. 18.

In all spiritual defensive operations, we are instructed to keep our heart ‘with all diligence’, Prov. 4. 23; keep ourselves ‘in the love of God’, Jude 21; keep ‘his commandments’, 1 John 2. 3; keep ourselves ‘unspotted from the world’, Jas. 1. 27; keep ourselves pure, 1 Tim. 5. 22; ‘keep the ordinances’ that were delivered to us, 1 Cor. 11. 2; keep our minds, Phil. 4. 7; keep ‘the unity of the Spirit’, Eph. 4. 3; and, finally, keep ‘the testimony of Jesus Christ’, Rev. 12. 17.

‘Make known’, Eph. 6. 19

In World War I, the campaign on the Western Front, located in France, was fought using trench warfare. Many trenches were dug by the soldiers but neither side made much ground for nearly three years. Defence alone cannot win a war! This is why the whole armour of God in Ephesians chapter 6 also includes weapons of offence:

  • Shoes for our feet, ‘shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace’, v. 15;
  • The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’, v. 17;
  • Prayer ‘always’, which is also defensive, v. 18;
  • Opening the mouth boldly ‘to make known the mystery of the gospel’, v. 19.

How strong are these offensive weapons? We find the answer in 2 Corinthians, ‘(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’, 10. 4, 5.

In Deuteronomy, God commanded His people, ‘Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount … go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers’, Deut. 1. 6-8. For, said God, ‘Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours’, 11. 24. The people needed to learn not to trust their own power but the power of the Lord of hosts, Zech. 4. 6. We need to remember that God has provided us with what it takes to attack and conquer the spiritual kingdom of Satan, and to win souls to Christ, ‘pulling them out of the fire’, Jude 23. Let us also remember what Hezekiah told the people when Sennacherib of Assyria came and entered into Judah, ‘With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles’, 2 Chr. 32. 8. Before the Lord Jesus sent the disciples to undertake the humanly impossible mission of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature, He equipped them with the power of:

  • His continuous presence, Matt. 28. 20;
  • The Holy Spirit to strengthen the believers, Acts 1. 8;
  • The Holy Spirit to convict sinners, John 16. 8;
  • The message of the gospel, Rom. 1. 16.

It is not our own power, ‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us’, 2 Cor. 4. 7.

It is interesting that shortly into the disciples’ mission, we hear the enemy confirming that the disciples have ‘turned the world upside down’, Acts 17. 6. The power of His presence and the power of the Holy Spirit have never changed, but to apply the power of the message we need to open our mouths, trusting that the Lord is going to give the message.

The First Epistle to the Corinthians sheds some light on divisions that existed among the saints in that city. Maybe their eyes had shifted from seeing the power of the message to comparing the ‘power’ of the messengers, 1 Cor. 1. 12, or maybe they cared more about the wisdom of the preachers than the ‘foolishness of preaching’, v. 21. The Apostle Paul had to explain to them that the wisdom of words, regardless of the speaker, could make the cross of Christ of no effect. Paul challenged the Corinthians to ‘suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ’, 9. 12.

Today, the gospel remains the power of God unto salvation, and the armour of God is still capable of pulling down strongholds. Preaching Christ crucified may still be foolishness to many and a stumbling block to others, but it is simply the good news declared by God and received by the believers. The Holy Spirit wants us to pass on the same news, without any modifications, in its entirety. I believe that Satan will resist a simple brother who is preaching the truth of the gospel at a street corner more than an eloquent preacher who is speaking in front of thousands without a mention of the gospel or Christ. The faithful preaching of the gospel should include the punishment of God on ‘them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’, 2 Thess. 1. 7-9.

To be able to answer those who ask us questions we need to study and be prepared, and we are commanded to do that and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In apologetics, obviously some are more equipped and more qualified than others, but this does not necessarily apply when it comes to spreading the gospel. Whilst ‘evangelists’, Eph. 4. 11, need to receive a special call from the Holy Spirit for this ministry, sharing the good news with others, such as friends, neighbours, and work colleagues does not always require a particular depth of knowledge. Indeed, our own wisdom and personal power might be a hindrance rather than help. Remember, too, that what people regarded as foolishness in the days of Paul they will regard as foolishness till the end of time.

Many people around us are honestly seeking answers for their legitimate questions, and our responsibility is to present the truth to them. However, be aware of the many people described by the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy chapter 3. Such people still have ‘a form of godliness’ and they have their own false answers and arguments, denying the power of the gospel.

‘In weakness’, 1 Cor. 2. 3

The Apostle Paul needed almost two full chapters to explain to the Corinthians that he could not take any credit for preaching the gospel. He describes to them his personal state of mind when he came to them, ‘And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling’, 1 Cor. 2. 3. He understood what the gospel of the Son of God means to God Himself, the value of the blood of His Son, the cross, and the glorious, finished work. The thought that God is proclaiming all this through a human channel made him tremble. Thankfully, the weakness of man gives way to the power of God. No special gift is needed to spread the gospel; just pass on what you received and what you believe in boldness. Every moment when the Lord puts us in touch with people around us is an opportunity to put the power of God into action, and to engage the armour of God in the warfare. Every spot is ‘a preaching platform’. Let us always remember what Paul wrote of his experience, ‘for when I am weak, then am I strong’, 2 Cor. 12. 10.

Preaching, hearing, the Spirit convicting, repenting and believing are the steps that are pleasing to God for salvation that all might be for the glory of the Son of God. Results are guaranteed when God is pleased! There is a general agreement that what sparked all revivals in modern history is the Holy Spirit through preaching the gospel. It is clear that God had also used local and world events to soften the hearts. Let us not discount the sovereign dealings of God from such events. Yes, knowledge increased through the years and minds became more sophisticated and critical, but God will always honour the glorious gospel of His Son.

King Saul could not even imagine some inexperienced young man like David standing against Goliath in the battle. Later on, the best he could suggest was to equip David with Saul’s own fighting gear. David knew that such protection, though it might be one of the best in the earthly kingdom, would hinder him rather than help. David trusted that the Lord would deliver him. He went out in the name of the Lord of hosts. Yes, David needed a sword to end this battle, but that sword was none other than Goliath’s own sword. In 1 Samuel chapter 21, that same sword became the property of David, but as he went out to the battle he did not trust in the weapons of the world. Neither should we!

In 1787, Benjamin Beddome wrote:

‘God in the gospel of His son
Makes His eternal counsel known.
Where love in all its glory shines
And truth is drawn in fairest lines,
The pris’ner here may break his chains,
The weary rest from all his pains,
The captive feel his bondage cease;
The mourner find the way of peace’.

And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen’, Rom. 16. 20.


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