Story – Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare

“The Rest of the Story”

 

Cal Poulsen

Scripture Insights

12-30-13

Part 1

Spiritual warfare for believers is fought in the mind, emotions and the will of each individual believer.  Scriptural truth and prayer is our primary line of defense.  That’s why the apostle Paul frequently urges us to be renewed in our minds (Romans 12:1-2, Colossians 3:1-3).  The more our minds are filled with God’s Word the less susceptible we are to Satan’s deceptions and temptations.  Consequently, there’s no need to fear our spiritual enemy.  While Satan still has the freedom to tempt and harass Christians, he has no direct authority over them. 

Satan is the personification of evil.  You need to believe the Bible's teaching on this evil being, as the opponent of everything belonging to God.  Today, a shocking number of people, including Christians, do not believe in an actual devil.  Rather, they assign him to the annals of superstition and fantasy.  At best they are duped into believing that this is a figure found only in the Old Testament. 

Unfortunately the great deceiver Satan wants us to do exactly that.  Such a belief leaves him at liberty to bring his evil and spiritual destruction into our lives, enabling him to oppose and harass the followers of our Lord.

Have you ever wondered why life is so difficult?  Why so many of your desires are thwarted?  Why trouble seems to follow you around like a dark cloud?  There's a good reason for this.  Much of the New Testament is written against the backdrop of a fierce war raging between two kingdoms. Christ's Kingdom of light and Satan's domain, the kingdom of darkness.  Satan is out to make life as difficult as possible for you.  We're not talking about a physical war between two nations. 

The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that it is a spiritual war.

Ephesians 6:12 

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 realm.

Christians are fighting against evil, but we are not in an earthly military campaign.  Our battle is not against people made of flesh and blood. Instead, we battle the demons over which Satan has control. Demons work to tempt people to sin. Satan did not create them because God is the Creator of all. Rather, the demons are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion and thus became perverted and evil.

The descriptive words reveal the characteristics of these enemies as well as their sphere of operations.  These spiritual beings have limited power. They are invisible to us, operating in the unseen world. The mighty power refers to those spiritual powers that are looking forward to world control. They are evil, are of the darkness, and they currently rule this world. The wicked spirits in the heavenly realms refers to the demons’ access to the very throne of God. Paul used the names of groups of evil powers not so much to establish classes or distinguish demonic powers as to show the full extent of Satan’s warfare.

Here is a host of spiritual forces arrayed against us, requiring us to use God’s full armor. These are real and powerful beings, not mere fantasies. Believers must not underestimate them. The Ephesians had practiced magic and witchcraft (Acts 19:19), so they were well aware of the power of the darkness. We face a powerful army whose goal is to defeat Christ’s church. When we believe in Christ, the satanic beings become our enemies, and they try every device to turn us away from him and back to sin.

Although believers are assured of victory, we must engage in the struggle until Christ returns because Satan constantly battles against all who are on God’s side.

This is an intense struggle and is not a war for the faint of heart, and our faith must be strong.  When we look closely at this scripture we find that Satan has a government containing authorities and powers.  Of course he is the head of this government.  This is not some ragtag bunch of fallen angels running around the earth causing spiritual chaos. 

Daniel 10:13 

But the prince (angel of Satan) of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, (Archangel of God) came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

The prince mentioned here is an angel of Satan.  We see here that an angel of God required the help of “Michael the Archangel” in overcoming the prince of the kingdom of Persia.  Yet Satan still has access to the very presence of God.

Job 1:6

Now there was a day when the sons (angels) of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

Although we do not know the exact number of angels that followed Satan, scripture tells us that it was one third of all the angels in heaven.  We can also see here that Satan still has access to the very throne of God.  But this will not always be so.

Revelation 12:4

“And his tail (Satan) drew the third part of the stars (angels) of heaven, and (God) did cast them to the earth.”

Matthew 11:12

And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it.
 

Here we see John the Baptist preaching and baptizing the Jewish people that they may believe in the Christ as their Messiah.  Yet he too was in a struggle with Satan and his demons. 

So who is Satan and where did he come from?  To learn about his origin, it is necessary to go back to the Old Testament.

Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-19

How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will make myself like the Most High.”  You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were anointed as a guardian cherub, You were on the holy mount of God, You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.  You were filled with violence, and you sinned, your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom, I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 

Although Satan was an anointed cherub, the model of perfection, he wanted more. He wanted his throne to be higher than God's.  Satan is willing to fight for his kingdom of darkness.  Revelation gives us an example of a fierce war in heaven.
 

Revelation 12:7-9

There was war in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, (Satan) and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down; that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels (demons) with him.

We face a formidable enemy yet his defeat is sure.  Scripture in no way indicates that Satan lost any of his powers as an angel when he was cast out of heaven. The Bible also tells us much about the character and powers of Satan and his demons.  Let's look at a few instances from Scripture that describe them.

Matthew 12:22

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.

Matthew 13:19 

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one (Satan) comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.

Luke 13:16 

Should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?

The apostle Paul on one occasion, in explaining to the Thessalonians why he had not come to visit them said the following.

1 Thessalonians 2:18

We wanted to come to you, certainly I, Paul, did, again and again, but Satan stopped us.

Obviously, Satan could thwart the plans of an apostle, but not the plans of God for an apostle.  We do not know what specifically went wrong.  Paul’s plans could be sidetracked only because God permitted Satan to do so.  Yet in the end setbacks can work out a better result then we had planned.

Spiritual warfare is real. Satan and God are constantly at war. Satan actively works to keep people from accepting Christ. He also works to hinder God’s people from advancing God’s Kingdom.

Some of the difficulties that prevent believers from accomplishing God’s work can be attributed to Satan (Ephesians 6:12). Satan will bring sexual temptation on those who lack self control (1 Corinthians 7:5). He will attempt to cause division among believers (2 Corinthians 2:11). He will bring in false teaching to lead believers astray (2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan can even disguise himself as an angel of light (Galatians 1:8). Satan will also attempt to hurt the community of believers through persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5). While God is more powerful than Satan and sometimes intervenes and overrides, he does not always do so. Therefore, Christians must be vigilant and faithful to Christ.

In the familiar story of Ananias’ deceit, in holding back money from the early church, the apostle Peter confronts Ananias.

Acts 5:3 

Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy  Spirit and  have  kept  for  yourself some of the money you received for the land?
 

Not long after that, we see the next step in Judas’ downfall.

John 13:2 

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus."

Jesus had already called Judas “a devil” in (John 6:70) because Jesus knew that Judas would cooperate with the Devil in perpetrating Jesus’ death. Thus, the Devil and Judas corroborated in Jesus’ betrayal. Indeed, Satan entered Judas to carry out the actual betrayal (John 13:27).

Later that same night, at the occasion we know as “The Last Supper,” we learn of the following.

John 13:26-27 

Then, dipping the piece of bread, he (Jesus) gave it to Judas.  As soon as Judas took the bread Satan entered into him.”

Part 2

In Part 1 of this study we learned who Satan is, his characteristics and his powers. Now we will see how Christ has given us the authority and the tools to be victorious over him.

1 John 3:8 

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.

Satan is the founder of lawless rebellion against God. Therefore, when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil. The Devil has been sinning since the beginning, even before the creation of the world. Since then, as the prince of this world, he has been both sinning and causing people to sin. The false teachers who spoke lies and sinned without remorse showed that they belonged to the Devil himself (1 John 2:22). Those who followed these teachers were aligning themselves with the Devil and thus fighting against Christ.

There is a cure for sin, however, because the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil. The Greek word behind “destroy” does not mean to annihilate; rather, it means “to break down” (Ephesians 2:14), “to undo,” “to render ineffective.” Though it would have made more sense, humanly speaking, for Christ to have obliterated Satan, he didn’t. Instead, Christ came to undo Satan’s work and thereby free people from sin and all its awful consequences. John was therefore arguing that Christians cannot be involved in what Christ came to destroy.

Colossians 2:15 

Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over (Satan – Demons) them by the cross.”

 This “disarming” occurred when Jesus died on the cross. The word for “disarmed” is literally “stripped,” as in stripping a defeated enemy of armor on the battlefield. The powers and authorities of this evil world stripped Christ of his clothing and popularity, made a public spectacle of him on the cross, and triumphed over him by putting him to death. Ironically, the victory belonged to Christ. Actually he shamed them publicly by his victory.

Matthew 28:18 

Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Jesus not only came to earth to destroy the devil's work, he has the authority to do so.  On several occasions Jesus passed that authority on to the disciples.
 

Matthew 10:1 

He (Jesus) called his twelve to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to “heal every disease and sickness.”

On another occasion Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples.  The disciples returned with great joy, proclaiming the following;

Luke 10: 17-19  

Lord, (Jesus) even the demons submit to us in your name. He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy: nothing will harm you.”

Snakes and scorpions represent Satan and his demons.   Snakes and scorpions, although part of the creation, were symbols of the presence of evil.  This represented a figurative way to speak of trampling over evil.  In this verse Jesus is saying that His followers have the authority to overcome all of their power.
 

2 Timothy 2:4 

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs.

By civilian affairs, Paul is talking about the customs and practices of the world.  It is very important to remember that in no way are we citizens of this world.

Paul instilled a sense of purpose and obedience in Timothy. A good soldier obeys the commanding officer. The soldier’s call to service takes precedence over the affairs of this life, referring to any business or distraction that gets in the way of the mission. The word involved means “entangled, absorbed.” While this life’s involvements are not wrong in themselves, they become a problem if the Christian gets so entangled in them that his or her ministry suffers. Christian workers, whether pastors or laymen, must watch their outside involvements carefully. Business ventures, serving on committees or boards, volunteer assignments, can eat up valuable time and energy. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that a good minister of the gospel must have a single-minded purpose to preach the truth and, if necessary, to suffer for it.

Philippians 3:20 

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.

The author of Hebrews also echoes this idea.

Hebrews 13:14 

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

1 Peter 2:11 

I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

This earth is not our home.  As Christians and members of the body of Christ, we are citizens of heaven, and it is to heaven that our allegiance belongs.  We should live in this world on a temporary basis.  The Christian’s homeland is in heaven.  That is why Paul is able to tell us not to get involved in civilian affairs.  We are fulltime soldiers in Christ's army making war against our enemy, Satan and his forces.

The apostles James and Peter have further instructions for us.

James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:8-9 

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you upBe self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing “firm in the faith.”

We humble ourselves before God by recognizing both his friendship and his authority. We enter a relationship with God, not as equals, but as trusting servants. Although he is not specifically defining the term, James is describing the life of faith. True faith responds to God actively rather than passively. Although God initiates and facilitates all that occurs between us and him, our involvement is never entirely excluded. Personal humility before God is part of living faith.

Satan knows that as long as he can stimulate human pride, he can delay God’s plan, even if only temporarily. But as powerful as Satan is, his only power over believers is in his powerful temptations. We can resist the Devil, and he will flee from us. Conversely, a lack of resistance will practically guarantee ongoing harassment by Satan (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:6-9).

Once we have identified the Devil as our enemy, we need to understand who he is and how he operates in order to effectively resist him. The Devil’s primary purpose is to separate man from God. Destined for destruction, he wants to take as much of creation with him as he possibly can. Among the reasons we so desperately need God’s grace is that we are locked in Spiritual mortal combat with an enemy. We need God’s help to resist Satan’s separating schemes and instead draw near to God.  Both humility before God, and resistance of the Devil are required.

Conclusion:

No commander in chief would send his army into battle without equipping it with all the necessary weapons.  Jesus is no different and no wise soldier would ever attempt to fight without his spiritual weapons.

Ephesians 6:14-18 

”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 .  .  . Take up the shield of faith .  .  . and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Again I say stand firm.”

The believers’ response to the reality of this warfare should be to use every piece of God’s armor. The armor is available, but the believer-soldier must use it. We would be neglectful to do otherwise, for the battle is real, and we are Satan’s targets. Only with the armor will believers be able to be standing firm, a word describing standing against great opposition; indeed, it would be impossible to stand on our strength alone.

Christian soldiers must be able to hold their ground and not flee or surrender under Satan’s attacks. The time of evil refers to the hours of trial that have within themselves the seeds of the last and greatest trial. Christians must be prepared for every day’s conflicts with the forces of evil. For Christians, this is the shield of faith—complete reliance on God. Faith means total dependence on God and willingness to do his will. It is not something we put on for a show for others. It means believing in his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet.

When the enemy, the ruler of this world (John 12:31), sends his fiery arrows of temptation, doubt, wrath, lust, despair, vengeance, problems, and trials into our lives, we can hold up our shields and stop them. Faith gives us the strength to stand against Satan with firm courage, even when he uses his most fearsome weapons.

Finally, the soldier takes the sword of the Spirit, the only offensive weapon mentioned. This refers to the short sword used in close combat. The sharp, short sword was one of Rome’s great military innovations. The Roman army was called the “short swords” because of its use of the short swords in winning battles. The sword’s double edges made it ideal for “cut and thrust” strategy.

The Spirit makes the word of God effective as we speak it and receive it. The Spirit gives the word its penetrating power and sharp edge. Jesus’ use of God’s word in his temptation prompts our use of it against Satan (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10). With the Holy Spirit within, believers have the constant reminder of God’s word to use against Satan’s temptations. When the enemy, the tempter (Matthew 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), tries to tempt us to do evil, we have the power to send him away with the word of God. The Holy Spirit will bring the words to mind.

Satan will attack at various times, but he will always be attacking someone. Satan will attack when we least expect it, so we need to stay alert to prayer needs when they arise. Satan will rarely let up if he thinks he can win the battle, so believers must be persistent in praying, no matter how long it takes. No believer is exempt from being Satan’s target. 

How can anyone pray all the time? Make quick, brief prayers your habitual response to every situation you meet throughout the day. Order your life around God’s desires and teachings so that your very life becomes a prayer. You can make prayer your life and your life a prayer while living in a world that needs God’s powerful influence. Our victory is sure.  Absorb daily scriptural truths, remain close to God while living in obedience.   Share the gospel (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4) and trust in Christ.  Only when we overcome temptation in the spiritual realm can we play out that victory in the physical world.  We should look forward to that day of final victory.

Revelation 20:10 

And the devil, which deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

It is a war Jesus has already won.

 

Your questions and comments are always appreciated.

Scripture Insights

2015 – 2016

 

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