When the subject of spiritual warfare is mentioned we often find two extremes, some see demons under every bed and others play down the notion of spiritual warfare. We have seen both extremes in our day in the pentecostal/charismatic movement we have had our fair share of extreme views. In some other evangelical circles where Christianity always has to be nice and we are assured of constant blessing the nature of spiritual warfare is ignored or at least played down. The apostle Paul however never went to either extremes but he recognised the reality of the battle and in his teaching he maintained a sane and realistic approach to the subject, we need to recapture this approach in our own day because we are involved in spiritual warfare whether we like it or not. Paul’s approach does not give us any techniques or formulas but he gives us something far better and that is he emphasises that we can fight the war because we are in a relationship with the living God. Paul says this in his second letter to the Corinthian Church,
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.(2Corinthians Chapter 10:3-5)
Paul here is confident that he has the weapons that God has provided and it is interesting that when we find Paul speaking here and elsewhere it is obvious that he sees two important factors for spiritual warfare and they are Spirit led praying and Spirit-empowered use of the word of God. He draws on both Old Testament teaching but he also must have known about the way Jesus engaged in spiritual warfare.
Prayer must be seen as an interactive relationship with our loving heavenly Father who is the holy and almighty God, although our relationship is intimate we must always remember that he is the sovereign Lord. Thus when we pray we are seeking his will and purpose not primarily trying to get our own way. We will never get anywhere in spiritual warfare unless we realise that we are in submission to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is only as we seek first the kingdom of God that we can make progress in the spiritual battle. We must realise that in submitting to God we are submitting to the one who loves with an everlasting love and cares deeply for us, it is true therefore to say that as we submit to God we will be blessed. As we submit to god and read his word we will realise that God has not promised to give us an easy life but he has promised to make us like Jesus, I want to be more and more like Jesus, do you? If your answer is yes then it is inevitable that you will be involved in a spiritual battle. We have within us many things that are broken and twisted that resist the Lordship of Christ and this needs to change. To say in prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is heaven” is an acknowledgement that God’s ways are best. Sometimes that acknowledgement will mean that we wrestle with a problem over time in prayer at other times the Holy spirit will speak to us and empower us to fight the good fight of faith. But it is easy to ask how do I know what God’s will is and that leads me directly to my second point and that is our use of the Word of God.
The Word of God is crucial for spiritual warfare especially when we are called to tear down strongholds in the mind that contain false teaching but the word of God is essential for our daily walk with God. If Jesus used the Word of god in spiritual warfare how much more do I need to use it? The word of God is the only infallible rule for faith and practice, therefore we need to know the word of God, as we read we must remember that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture indwells us and is able and willing to make the word alive to us and illuminate its meaning. It is good to study using tools but we must always remember that event the best theologians are fallible and we should test their words against the Word of God. In the UK in many nonconformist Churches their is a an open Bible facing the congregation at all times ( this is a practice that goes back to the time of the Reformation), this is a symbolic reminder that we must test all that is said from the pulpit by the word. Jesus in his temptations defeated Satan by the word of God. We can also do the same thing as Jesus did, if like Jesus we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And let us remember that the whole of Scripture is the sword of the Spirit and the Lord can help us to use the word to defeat Satan both in our own lives and in the lives of others as we witness to the Saving Grace of god our Saviour. The word of God is always fresh, the Bible is the only book that I know of that contains new insights for me constantly, I have been reading the Bible every day since the Autumn of 1969 and yet I never find it boring. I know of no other book than the Bible that can speak with profound relevance and in a life-changing manner. We need to prayerfully read the word of God expecting the Holy Spirit to bring it alive. If we allow the word of God to dwell within us, then when we need it the Holy Spirit reminds us of what it says. As we read and meditate upon the word of God the Holy Spirit uses it to speak to us and to arm us for the spiritual battle that is uniquely ours. But He also uses that same word to bring freedom to those who are enslaved by Satan, this is why C H Spurgeon always had a team of people praying in a separate room in his church as he preached the word of God. We are not using the Bible like some magic charm rather we are using it to hear what the living God has to say to us. We therefore comeback to the fact that we have a dynamic relationship with God that enables us to go forward into the spiritual battle humbly but confidently knowing that as we rely upon God he will empower us.