After taking a class on Spiritual Warfare at Multnomah Biblical Seminary here are some of my reflections. I will post articles regarding this subject on realizing the reality of spiritual warfare, the armor of God, the power of God’s word and prayer in our battle, and a short introduction to angels and demons. Understanding spiritual warfare is vital to all Christians in order for them to walk in the fullness of their life in Christ, not fall into sin, and to discern what supernatural activity is occurring around them.
First, there are many definitions of spiritual warfare but I think that the best one comes right out of the Bible from Ephesians 6:12 which says, “For 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 realms.” Ray C. Stedman wrote, “The conflict is not against flesh and blood; that is, it is not a human problem, not a struggle of man against man. It may be a struggle within man, but it is not between men.”
I would say that spiritual warfare is the daily battle that believers in Jesus Christ face from the evil that exists from within, without, and beyond our control.
I would like to explain my definition in fuller detail before I discuss who our warfare is waged against. The first point I would like to make is that spiritual warfare is a daily battle. Even if benefits or harm are not evident on a daily basis, there is no rest for the Christian’s battle against evil. The way we live our lives today will be reflected in the eternal rewards that we reap. That is why we must “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). My second point is that spiritual warfare is waged by believers in Jesus Christ. Non-believers are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6); therefore they “are helpless victims of satanic control.”
When we are set free from sin, we are freed to join the ranks of the saints currently engaged in spiritual warfare. It is important to educate those older in their faith how to recognize the spiritual battles in their own lives, and to help them be actively involved in discipleship of younger believers.
The last point of clarifying my definition relates to my second point of identifying who our warfare is waged against. Facing the evil within, without, and beyond our control is very important. Human beings are all depraved and full of sin from the time they are born. Scripture speaks to the evil within us in James 1:14-15 when it says, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. A term that I will use to identify this enemy is the flesh. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
In The Adversary, Mark Bubeck wrote, “The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Once the flesh is executed and replaced by new life in Christ, we must continue to persevere in the process of sanctification to reflect the image of Christ more fully.
Our second enemy, the world, is the evil from without. The world systems that we live under such as governments, false religions, and even the entertainment industry contain many evil forces that are against God and his people. This is what the apostle John wrote about the world: “ Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
The last type of evil that my definition covers is the evil beyond our control, that is, the demonic realm and principalities of evil that try to prevail believers individually and corporately. Satan leads and directs this kingdom of darkness to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10). 1 Peter 5:8 explains it this way, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Satan will stop at nothing to harm the cause of Christ that we are trying to promote. “There are many opportunities for the lion to find us vulnerable, and he knows how to spot them in our relationships, in our work, in our faith, in our spiritual disciplines-everywhere.”
Stedman, Ray C. Spiritual Warfare: battle strategy for the war with Satan. Waco, TX. Word Books. 1978.
Nelson, Deborah W. I declare war: a handbook for deliverance ministers. Xulon Press. 2010.