Apr 4, 2024

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

4 Min Read

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Gal. 1:3–5, NKJV)

With these words, the Apostle Paul celebrates God’s deliverance of His people through the work of His Son on our behalf (Col. 1:13–14). He also reminds us that we live out our days in a fallen world, in which we contend with spiritual opposition in our walk with Christ and work for Him (Eph. 2:1–10).

The Context of Spiritual Warfare

In His High Priestly Prayer, our Lord Jesus prays for us as ones who are in the world (John 17:11) but not of the world (John 17:14). As such, He asks not that the Father would take us out of the world, but that He would keep us from the Evil One (John 17:15). The prayer He taught us to pray as His disciples mobilizes us to seek the kingdom of God into which we have been established and to serve His will, taking into account the opposition of a spiritual enemy (Matt. 6:10, 13).

The redemption God promised in Eden is framed in terms of conflict (Gen. 3:15). That Promised One would come in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4–5) to do battle with him who is identified as “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on true and full humanity so that He might wage war for our deliverance and destroy the works of the devil (Heb. 2:14–18; 1 John 3:8).

Key to our engaging in spiritual warfare is recognition that the victory is Christ’s and is ours in Christ. We do not fight for victory but in victory. The prelude to Jesus sending us out to make disciples is the declaration of His accomplished mission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18; see Eph. 1:20–23).

When Jesus tells us that He is with us always, even unto the end of the age, He is assuring us of His presence, power, and promise as we serve Him and seek His kingdom. Doing so will necessarily involve spiritual warfare, both for our spiritual growth (Matt. 28:20; Eph. 5:1–14) and in our kingdom service (1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Thess. 3:1–3).

We do not fight for victory but in victory.

We tend to think of spiritual warfare as something extraordinary to the Christian life, but it is part and parcel of living under the lordship of Jesus and seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. We daily contend with a spiritual foe who appeals to our wayward desires through the philosophy and values of this fallen world in which we labor (James 1:14).

The Conduct of Spiritual Warfare

What is involved in waging spiritual battle? Where do we encounter our invisible foe? Peter issues this directive: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9). Peter is alerting us to the reality that our enemy is everywhere, not in the way of God in His omnipresence, but by legions of fallen angels called demons.

Just as Peter addresses the subject of spiritual opposition, so does every New Testament writer. We are given intelligence about our enemy’s character, intentions, schemes, and tactics, equipping us for battle, and bolstering our morale through the sure hope of the gospel of the kingdom.

Foundational to our conduct of spiritual warfare is standing firm in Christ against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:10–16). Against Satan’s accusations, we must stand firm in Christ’s payment of the debt of our sin on the cross and satisfaction of the wrath of God due us (Col. 2:13–15). Against Satan’s deceptions, we must stand firm in the revealed truth of God’s Word, the Bible (2 Cor. 10:1–5; Eph. 6:17; Col. 2:6–8. Against Satan’s temptations, we must stand firm in the power of the risen Christ, through whom we can resist the devil and walk worthy of the Lord (Eph. 6:10; Col. 1:9–12). Whatever we learn of our enemy’s efforts in the pages of God’s Word, we must look to Christ to counter them.

Knowing we have a spiritual enemy who opposes us should enrich our prayer lives, causing us to seek the sufficiency of our Lord that we desperately need. A basic tenet of spiritual warfare is that it is conducted in wisdom (James 3:15) and weakness (2 Cor. 12:9–10), driving us to Christ for all things, at all times, in every way (Eph. 6:18–20).

Finally, we want to remember that we are not isolated but are enfolded by the Spirit of God into Christian community for our protection, direction, and provision. We are to pray for one another (Col. 4:3), rouse one another (Heb. 10:23–25), exhort one another (Heb. 3:12–14), and care for one another (James 5:16, 19–20), for together we serve our Lord who is building His church, against which the gates of hell will not prevail: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Rom. 16:20).