Spiritual Warfare (2)

With Paul in the School of Spiritual Warfare (5 of 5)

This is the final installment of a five-part series on spiritual warfare. For further study see my two books on the subject: Warfare Witness: Contending with Spiritual Opposition in Everyday Evangelism (Christian Focus, 224 pages) and What is Spiritual Warfare? (P&R Basics of the Faith Series, 44 pages). Links to the previous installments can be found here, here, here and here

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12 

How do we go about standing in Christ as God’s strategy for the conduct of spiritual warfare?  So far we have seen that we combat Satan’s tactic of accusation by standing firm in Christ’s atonement for our sin and accreditation of His righteousness. We combat Satan’s tactic of deception by standing firm in the word of Christ, hearing His word and putting it into practice, letting that word dwell in us richly in ourselves and through the community of faith. 

Finally, the intelligence of God’s revelation informs us that Satan is a tempter. He whispers, “Did God really say? Is God really good? Does He really love you?” He suggests, "Here are delight, fulfillment, and life." He invites us to a banquet in the grave. Satan is the seductress of the book of Proverbs. Spiritual adultery is expressive of spiritual warfare. The enemy woos our hearts. He wants our worship. He urges us to spiritual desertion and works to lead us to shipwreck on the rocks of spiritual destruction.  

Through the wares and wiles of the world, Satan appeals to the wayward desires of our hearts to lure and entice us (Jas. 1:14). He plays up to the lust of flesh with its immoral cravings, the lust of the eye filled with greed, covetousness, discontentment and ingratitude, and the pride of life in seeking our own glory and kingdom and righteousness (cf. 1 Jn. 2:15-17). The world, the flesh, and the devil work together to capture our attention, affection, and allegiance. Satan is indeed a fisher of men.

Against Satan’s tactic of temptation, we are to stand firm in Christ’s strength. Dependence on Christ through whom we can do all things is the lesson learned by Paul through the instrumentality of Satan (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Pride is an ally of the evil one and brings us to resist God rather than the devil. Humility gives ear to God and finds strength in the grace of God (cf. Isa. 55:1-3). 

Paul tells us that it is as we walk by the Spirit that we will not gratify the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). That means in standing firm we are not only not to do something. Rather, we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1), no longer as unbelievers who are darkened in their understanding and hardness of heart, giving ourselves over to sensuality and greed (Eph. 4:17-20). We once walked along those lines but God redeemed us in His Son, freeing us from sin’s guilt and power (Eph. 2:1-10). No longer sons of disobedience we are now children of light and are to walk in the light (Eph. 5:6-10). 

Overarching our conduct of spiritual warfare is prayer – comprehensive and constant. Paul’s reference to prayer in Ephesians 6:18-19 is not a new thought nor is it another article of armor. Rather, prayer is an overlay. We pray in continual alertness, aware of our enemy, on guard against his schemes (cf. Mt. 26:41). We pray in the Spirit who unites us to Christ. We pray for ourselves and our brethren that we might abide in Christ, standing firm in Him and the power of His redemptive might.  

Spiritual warfare cannot be an elective in the curriculum of Christian discipleship. Nor can it be neglected by those appointed to lead Christ’s church in kingdom mission. 

Digging Deeper

  1. In what way can the conduct of spiritual warfare be described as walking in the light rather than walking the darkness?
  2. How will accounting for spiritual warfare affect our approach to prayer? 

“Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 144:1–2).

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.

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