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Contending For The Faith

What is Spiritual Warfare?

1 John 5:19
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.

The Bible is the story of a cosmic conflict, one that commenced in the Garden of Eden and continues today. It is the battle of God versus Satan. Only, it is not much of a battle, at least, from God's perspective. God won the battle even as He tossed Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel."

We cannot understand why God chose this method of defeating Satan. The Apostle John tells us that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). God loves mankind. Satan caused the corruption of mankind and God's love desires that man be cleansed of this corruption - the process commenced as salvation and continued throughout the life of a Christian as spiritual growth, what theologians call sanctification. So, God has won, but we must each individually enter into our share of the battles before Christ returns to finally defeat Satan. This is spiritual warfare.

In the meanwhile, it is important to recognize that spiritual warfare occurs at several levels in the life of a believer.

First, there is direct warfare, fighting the "fiery darts" (Eph 6:16). These are direct attacks against us by Satan. This is, as an example, enticement toward a particular, specific sin. Such a direct attack might involve doubt introduced in the mind of an immature or spiritually weak Christian. It could also involve despondency, depression, or other emotional attack. All are the way of Satan.

Then, there is indirect warfare. As the Apostle John puts it, the entire world is under the influence and control of Satan. As Paul says, Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. NKJV

These rulers and spiritual hosts, all under the direct control of Satan, the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph 2:2), influence and control the world in many ways. An example of this is advertising. How many advertisements, for all types of products, involve sex as a sales tool? These displays exercise great indirect influence upon the world and the people living therein, including Christians. Materialism, finances, the foods we eat, our views on a variety of topics, are all indirectly, and sometimes directly, influenced by this type of spiritual attack. If we succumb to such indirect influence, Satan can invest his time elsewhere, in places where he can accomplish the greatest damage.

We should also remember that we are fallen. Sin has invaded our nature. We will not be totally cleansed of this until we are in heaven. In the meanwhile, we will all make errors of judgment and wrong choices. This is sin. Whether you view this as an indirect influence of Satan, or just part of life, it is still potentially a spiritual battle. This is especially true when our individual lives are influenced or affected by the actions of others - the flow of life where we are touched by events that we do not participate in.

And, there is still one other arena of spiritual warfare. This is the blinding and binding of non-believers. Satan, through all of his various tools and efforts, attempts to hide the Gospel message from the unbelievers of the world (Eph 2:2; 2 Cor 4:4). Indeed, this is the greatest of the spiritual battles, the battle for individual souls. This is where contending for the faith has the greatest impact. Fighting this battle is what God commissioned Paul to do (Acts 26:18). It is what we are commissioned to do as well (Matt 28:19-20).

How do you win the spiritual battle? How do you know when you are going through a period of testing by God rather than an attack by Satan? Is this a "real attack" or merely the flow of life catching you off guard? Why not use Michael the archangel as the example. Jude relates the story of Michael contesting with Satan over the body of Moses. How does Michael fight?

Jude 9
But I would remind you that even the archangel Michael when he was contending with the devil in the dispute over the body of Moses did not dare to condemn him with mockery. He simply said, the Lord rebuke you! Phillips

Jesus is the King. We fight in His power. He has given us the Holy Spirit and all of our ministries are through the power of God's Spirit. As God's Word tells us

2 Timothy 1:6-7
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. NKJV

2 Timothy 1:14
That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. NKJV

2 Timothy 1:8
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God. NKJV

1 John 4:4
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. NKJV

For an interesting and thought provoking work on spiritual warfare, read The Believer's Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Thomas B. White, Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1990.




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