A Theology of Spiritual Warfare

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There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

A spiritual war is raging. Battles are occurring across the globe and in our city and in our homes. Sadly, some think that we only do battle when we encounter people with spinning heads or guttural voices. Even sadder, some are oblivious that a battle is even taking place.

Instead of having our minds shaped by those skeptical of the spiritual realm or by those who fancy a Hollywood story, let us look to the Scriptures and our theology.

The Combatants

It may be helpful if we examine each of the combatants in relationship to three aspects used to evaluate armies – their location, their intelligence and their might. When we speak about God in theological terms, we attribute to him omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.

The King

The Lord is all or omni in all three areas. He is omnipresent, ever present and never absent. He is omniscient, all knowing and unsusceptible to battlefield surprises. He is omnipotent, all powerful and without weakness.

The King’s Host, the Devil and Demons

The Bible describes the army or host of the Lord as being his angels. Since the devil and the demons are fallen angels, they have the same attributes whether good or evil.

They are not omnipresent, but they move quickly. Biblical characters often see them one moment and they are gone the next. They are not omniscient. Jesus taught that they are limited in their knowledge. They are not omnipotent. They have great power, but this is a power still subject to the Almighty.

The Christian and the Church

As to location, human beings are restricted to one place at one time. The movement between places is minuscule compared to the angelic beings. That is unless the human is carried along by an angel or by the Spirit of God.

As to intelligence, humans are far from omniscient. Even of God’s truth, we are dependent upon first revealing himself to us. Our limitations are why the Scriptures tell us to have the mind of Christ. Only then can our feeble minds know enough to do battle in the spiritual realm.

As to might or strength, again we are limited far below that of the others in battle. In the classic passage on spiritual warfare, Paul begins by exhorting us to “be strong in the Lord (Eph 6:10).”

From this quick survey of the omni attributes, we learn that on our own we are no match for the enemy in spiritual battle. But we also learn that our enemy is no match for the Lord himself. The key to victory on the spiritual battlefield has to lie in having the presence, knowledge and might of the Lord.

The Arsenal

God has not left us defenseless. He has provided us the arsenal or armor with which to fight the god of this world. Ephesians 6 paints a picture of what this looks like to the Christian.

Putting On Christ

As we read of the various elements in the Christian’s armor, each piece is a picture of putting on Christ. Whether it be our helmet, our breastplate, our belt, our shoes or our shield, we could say it is simply putting on Christ.

This is a picture of the gospel. We have shed our filthy rags and are now dressed in the righteousness of Christ. We are assured victory when Christ is working through us to battle the wicked one.

The Sword of the Spirit

The final element in the arsenal is the sword. This is the Word of God. Since we have put on Christ, our battles will look remarkably similar to his battle in Matthew 4.

During 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus sharpened his sword. He was meditating on the wilderness book of the Old Testament – Deuteronomy. Each time Satan tempted him, he responded with a quote from that book.

We will be better warriors the more the Word of God saturates our beings.

The Battlefield

Simply put, the battlefield of spiritual warfare is in our prayer closets on our knees. Paul ended his section on warfare with these words,

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.

–Ephesians 6:18-20

How foolish to march into the world (which is the devil’s territory) in our own strength! When we do so we are outgunned and out maneuvered. Prayer is the place in which we wrestle with the temptations of the evil one. It is there that we wrestle with our own stubborn flesh. It is there that we even wrestle with God. We plead with God on the basis of his promises to bless us.

The first battlefield was in Eden between Eve and the devil. In that battle, the serpent challenged the Word of God, twisted the Word of God and appealed to her passions.

The more of Eden you experience, the more some demon will attempt the same with you. So put on Christ and hone your sword. It is time for battle.

**This post also appears on the website for First Boynton Church as an aid to the teaching time for August 26, 2015.

Treated Better By Atheists

A popular “evangelical” blogger decided to tackle the subject of the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham found in Genesis 22. This passage has long been Exhibit A for those who question the God of the Old Testament (as if He is different from the God of the New Testament) and question the divine inspiration of Scripture.

Her hand is revealed when she makes this statement,

How could I ever bring myself to worship a God who, if these accounts are true, ordained and derived glory from actions I believe are evil?

Spurgeon on the Justice of God

God is just…this gives us our terror at first; but is it not marvellous that this very same belief that God is just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace! If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change His nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law.

–Charles Spurgeon, MORNING AND EVENING: DAILY READINGS (Morning, September 25)

God Is Good…All the Time

God is goodI love his statement of faith which is oft repeated in black churches in America. Typically the pastor or speaker will declare, “God is good.” The congregation responds with “All the time.” Then the congregation begins the “God is good” while the pastor rejoins “All the time.”

It is a solid theological affirmation of the goodness of God. The refrain stresses that the goodness of God is a constant attribute. It does not waver in times in which we experience difficulty.

The Lifestyle of a Tourist

touristIn his book, The Conviction to Lead, Albert Mohler quotes from Eugene Peterson’s Perseverance: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want shortcuts. They want me to help them fill in the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity). They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points…The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.

–Eugene Peterson (emphasis mine)