Spiritual Warfare: The Battle
Christian, you are at war. Do you realize this? There is a battle raging. This is the reality. Make no mistake about it, if you are a Christian, then you are in a war. The Christian life is not easy. It is hard fought, difficult, and exhausting at times. There are defeats, blood, tears, wounds, defections, and causalities. But, there are also victories, advances, joys, and conversions. Knowing this makes the gospel sound sweeter, prayer more urgent, evangelism more necessary, sanctification more crucial, praise more active, and fellowship more essential.
This war is not physical in nature. Our battle is spiritual and takes place in the spiritual realm (Eph. 6:12). This means that the enemy and the weapons involved are spiritual in nature. We cannot fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons (more on this later). Though the battle is spiritual, it manifests itself in the physical realm. So many areas are impacted by this war. The scars and destruction of war are seen in peoples lives, in families, in the church, and in our society.
Spiritual conflict in the Old Testament
The Old Testament reveals the reality of spiritual warfare. Granted, it is not as fully revealed as the New Testament, however, it is still a reality. The Old Testament affirms the existence of corrupted, invisible beings who oppose God and his work. Satan, or the serpent, in Genesis 3. Evil spirits are spoken of (1 Sam. 16:14-23, 18:10, 19:9). Deceiving spirits are mentioned (1 Kin. 22:21-23). Demons are discussed (Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37). And territorial beings are mentioned in Daniel 10:13-21.
There are several examples throughout the Old Testament that point to the reality of spiritual warfare or the battle raging in the spiritual realm and having consequences in the physical. The Fall (Gen. 3) reveals that human rebellion was prompted by a sinister evil being who had already rebelled against God. The ongoing enmity between humanity and Satan is the result of the Fall (Gen. 3:15).
Other examples are: the enmity of the two seeds seen immediately in Cain and Abel (Gen. 4), the increased wickedness of man (Gen. 6), the rebellion at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11), the idolatrous worship and child sacrifices (2 Kin. 3:27, 16:3; Ps. 106:37-38; Ez. 16:20-21, 23:37), the demonization of Saul (1 Sam. 16:14-23, 18:10-11, 19:9-10, 20:33, 28:7-19), Ahab's worship of Baal (1 Kin. 16:30-33), and Elijah's confrontation of the prophets of Baal (1 Kin. 18:20-40). These are only a few examples. Many more could be given such as, the conflicts with and denouncements of idolatry, worship on high places, use of images, and cult prostitution (Is. 57; Ez. 8, 14; Hos. 2:13, 4:12-14). These examples are sufficient to show that spiritual forces were at work during the Old Testament period.
Spiritual conflict in the New Testament
As we would expect, the New Testament paints a fuller picture of spiritual warfare. This is seen all throughout. Jesus identified Satan as the origin of evil (Jn. 8:44) and confronts him during his forty days in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13). The ministry of Jesus was opposed by demons (Mk. 1:23-27). There are numerous instances of demonic possession and control (Matt. 8:28, 9:32, 12:22, 15:22, 17:15; Mk. 1:23, 5:2; Lk. 8:2). When Jesus appointed the twelve to ministry, he gave them authority over demons (Mk. 3:14-15, 6:7-13; Matt. 10:7-8).
The book of Acts records several encounters with demons (chaps. 5, 8, 16, 19). Spiritual warfare is a common theme in many of the New Testament books (Rom. 16:17-20; 1 Cor. 5:5, 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11, 10:3-5, 11:13-15, 12:7-10; Eph. 2:2, 6:10-20; 1 Thess. 2:18, 3:5; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; 1 Tim. 1:18-20, 4:1, 5:15; 2 Tim. 2:26; 2 Pet. 2:4; 1 Jn. 4:1-6, 5:19; Jude 6; Rev. 2:9, 13, 24, 9:11, 20, 16:13-14, 20:1-10).
Other evidence includes: unregenerate humanity is in bondage to the world, the flesh, and Satan (Eph. 2:1-3); those without Christ are said to be blinded by the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:3-4); the lost are held captive by the devil (2 Tim. 2:26); the unredeemed are called “sons of the evil one” (Matt. 13:37-39); and the lost are called “children of the devil” (Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8-10). All of this is sufficient to show that there is a battle taking place in the spiritual realm but that the affects are seen in this world.
There are several key targets that are attacked by spiritual forces. The first is the word of God. Satan has attacked the word of God from the very beginning in Eden, and it has been this way ever since. The word of God is questioned (Gen. 3:1), contradicted (Gen. 3:4), disobeyed (Gen. 3:6), ignored (Ps. 50:17), despised (Is. 5:24), not delighted in (Jer. 6:10), not heard (Zec. 7:12), not understood (Matt. 22:29), perverted and distorted (Gal. 1:6-9), not desired (2 Tim. 4:3-4), and corrupted and twisted (2 Pet. 2:1).
Other key targets include Christians, the family, the church, and the mind. The attack of Christians is plain enough (1 Pet. 5:8). That is to be expected. Why wouldn't spiritual forces assault Christ's children? Attacks on the church and mind are not out of the ordinary (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Cor. 3:14, 4:4, 11:3; 1 Pet. 1:13). Of course Satan will assail Christ's church in order to prevent the gospel going forth and seek to corrupt believer's minds to render them useless. But, the family? Yes, families are under attack too. If the family is destroyed, the nation falls. It is that simple. Attack the foundation and the structure comes toppling down.
The attack on the family is evident in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul mentioned several things such as, “give no opportunity to the devil” (4:25), “the days are evil” (5:16), “Wives, submit to your own husbands” (5:21), “Husbands, love your wives” (5:25), and “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (6:1). He then launches into a description of spiritual warfare in chapter six. It is as if Paul was saying, “you are under attack and at war with spiritual foes. They will attack you, your wife, your husband, and even your children. Be alert and fight. Do not let them gain a foothold in your household. Christian, you must be conscience of this fact- you are at war. This is real. And there is pain and heartache and sleepless nights and loss and suffering and death and disease. But, we serve a great and glorious God. Our God is able to take all this sin and evil and perfect us and glorify himself. We are at war, but we fight on God's side. We are at war, but God will get the victory!