Every Christian is a soldier. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are engaged in spiritual warfare. How are you doing in the fight? Are you standing firm, or losing ground? Are you even aware of the battle? Too many Christians today are living as spiritual pacifists, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Are you one of them?
Do you think of your Christian life in these terms? Do you realize that Satan and his forces are aligned against you, plotting to destroy you every day of your life? If not, then you have been duped, spiritually injured in a conflict about which you have been dangerously ignorant.
Do you feel like you are spinning your wheels spiritually? Maybe the reason is precisely because you have forgotten that you are in a war. Your enemy would be delighted to see you expend all of your energy on a treadmill that gets you nowhere. That is one of his subtle military strategies.
The war in which we are engaged will never have a cease-fire or offer a peace treaty in this life. It will end only when your Commander calls for you or comes for you.
The Bible directs most of its teachings on spiritual warfare to Christians. Unbelievers, however, are also in this war. But they are on the opposite side. If you are not trusting Jesus Christ as Lord then you are fighting against God in your unbelief.
He calls you to surrender to Him today. He offers you peace and forgiveness. Humble yourself before Him. Ask Him for mercy. Jesus Christ has died for rebel sinners like you and me. Trust in Him today and you will find peace with your God.
This war that is presently raging is more deadly, more intense and more important than any that has ever played out on the battlefields of this world. The stakes are greater and the casualties are higher than they were for either of the World Wars of the twentieth century. It is more brutal than anything that has been witnessed in Afghanistan or Iraq. The casualties in this war have eternal consequences.
The stage on which this war is fought is not some foreign battlefield. Rather, it is taking place in the soul of every man, woman and child. It is a spiritual warfare, and the whole world is engaged in it. There are no neutral parties–everyone is enlisted on one side or the other–either for God, against Satan, or (whether consciously or not) for Satan, against God. There is no neutral ground.
The call to be a Christian is a call to fight
Failure to understand and think seriously about spiritual warfare has caused many believers to become disillusioned and frustrated in their efforts to live the Christian life. Have you ever struggled with thoughts like these?
“Why is it so hard for me to pray?”
“Why do I give in to temptations?”
“Why can’t I get along with my husband/wife?”
“Why is this sin so enticing to me?”
“Why don’t I like to be in church?”
“Why isn’t the Bible more important to me?”
“Why am I so afraid to witness?”
“Why do I sometimes think such horrible thoughts?”
Why do Christians have such struggles? Because, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have an enemy who hates you and who is intent on destroying your spiritual life. And, this enemy is powerful, wicked and cunning. He dogs your every step and through various disguises and subtle strategies, he is constantly trying to ruin you.
Now, this may not sound very positive, and indeed, some people might find it strange to hear the Christian life described as a fight. But, the fact of the matter is this: The Bible portrays Christianity in precisely this way. Consider these words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-12,
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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].”
At first glance, these verses almost seem out of place. Immediately before them Paul has been writing about what it means for Christians to live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-6:9). For a wife it means living submissively and respectfully with her husband (5:22-24, 33). For a husband it means living sacrificially and lovingly with his wife (5:25-29, 33). For a child it means living respectfully and obediently with his or her parent (6:1-3). For a parent it means gently and thoroughly training one’s children (6:4). For employees it means working honestly and diligently for their employers (6:5-8). For employers it means treating employees kindly and with justice (6:9).
The kind of world that Paul is describing is wonderful If every Christian lived like this all the time, what a difference it would make in our relationships Why, then, does Paul shift gears so dramatically? Why does he leave the lofty ideals concerning how Christians are to relate to people in the Spirit of Christ and so abruptly introduce the language of warfare? This does seem rather startling and out of place, doesn’t it?
Yes, it does; until you begin to understand the Christian life the way that Paul understood it. He never lost sight of one important fact that many modern Christians too easily forget: the principles of Christian living will not be successfully implemented without a fight. The call to follow Christ is a call to war. When a person becomes a Christian, he enlists in a fight–the fight of his life.
For the fight of your life you need supernatural strength (v. 10)
This is what the Scripture means when it says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” In and of ourselves, we are not up to the fight. You do not have the natural strength to withstand the enemies of your soul.
This has been true from the beginning of time. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Where did this war begin?” Its origin is in many ways like that of World War II. How did the United States get involved in that war? On December 7, 1941 Japanese warplanes bombed the US military base at Pearl Harbor. On the next day, the United States government formally responded with a declaration of war on Japan.
The third chapter of Genesis records the origin of our spiritual war. God’s formal declaration of war is found in verse 15 as He speaks to Satan:
“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.”
With these words God drew very clear lines of opposition. Satan and his forces (his “seed”) are on one side. The Lord Jesus (“her Seed”) and His forces are on the other. Every man, woman and child without exception is on one side or the other.
God’s declaration of war followed Satan’s terrorist attack on Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:1-6 describes that tragic event. Through very shrewd deception Satan was able to entice the first human couple to rebel against their Creator. Even though they were without sin, the devil was too much for them.
Human strength is simply not adequate to withstand the attacks of Satan. You may be strong enough to win some physical, emotional or intellectual battles, but you will never win a spiritual battle in your own strength Martin Luther’s hymn says it well: “Did we in our own strength confide, our fighting would be losing.”
The situation, however, is not hopeless. There is supernatural strength available. Where is it found? “In the Lord.” This is precisely Paul’s point when he encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” He is saying, “Let the strength of the Lord continually be poured into you.” This reminds us of another statement by Paul which is found in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” With Christ’s strength being poured into him, a Christian can do all things.
Paul is obviously thinking about the supernatural power of God that is at work in the life of every born-again Christian. The three words that he uses in Ephesians 6:10 (strength, power, might) have their roots in three words that he previously used to describe God’s work of raising Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). In other words, Paul is reminding us that the strength and might of the Lord on which we are to draw is nothing less than resurrection power
Through faith, the believer is being indwelt by the resurrected Lord. His power–resurrection power–is available to us. How does a Christian access this power? How can we obey this command to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might”?
While the Christian life can never be reduced to a set of simplistic “ABC’s” or mechanical formulas, there are three biblical steps that must be followed in order to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
First, you must understand. Recognize that through faith you are united with the resurrected Christ who now indwells you. He is in you with all His strength and power. Christians often lose sight of this amazing reality. Therefore, Paul said that he prayed that his fellow-believers would come to know in a deep, personal, abiding way, “what is the exceeding greatness of His [God’s] power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20). One of the greatest needs that every believer has is simply this: to understand that God’s immeasurable power–resurrection power–has been given to us in Jesus Christ.
Once this amazing fact begins to sink in, the next step to accessing the power of God’s might involves faith. You must believe. Accept this amazing fact (“Jesus Christ lives in me”) with all of its biblical implications (therefore, “I can do all things through Christ”). The challenges that you face, the responsibilities that God calls you to take up are indeed doable. You are not equal to them in your own strength, but through Christ, you most definitely can meet and fulfill them.
After understanding and believing comes action. You must act. Start obeying God’s will. Commit yourself to living by God’s Word. Read the Bible to discover God’s will for your life (Ephesians 5:17). Once it is clear to you in any area, move forward to obey it, even if it looks impossible at the outset. Remember–if you have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, you have the resurrected Christ living in you and through Him you can fulfill God’s will.
For example, a wife reads in the Bible that it is God’s will for her to be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22) and to respect him (Ephesians 5:33). “But it is so hard,” she reasons. Her husband often does not deserve her respect and he makes it very difficult for her to maintain a submissive attitude. What should she do? Before attempting anything she must recognize that this is spiritual warfare War is always difficult.
In order for a wife to fulfill her God-given responsibilities to her husband, she must “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” She must understand that the risen Christ indwells her. She must believe that through Him, she can do all things–including maintaining a submissive and respectful attitude toward her husband. Then, with confidence in the Lord, she must begin acting in submissive and respectful ways toward her husband. By doing so, she is taking up the fight.
What about husbands? The Bible is clear: “Love your wife as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). “But sometimes I don’t feel like loving her. She can make it so hard on me”
Guess what, husband? You are in a fight Understand who you are in Christ, and who Christ is in you. Because you are joined to Him through faith, the same power that raised Him from the dead is available to you. Draw on this power by believing that, through Christ, you can find strength to love your wife, even when she seems unlovely. Then begin to treat her the way that Christ treats the church. Provide for her. Give her gifts. Protect her. Make sacrifices for her. Lead her. Help her understand. This is vital, and it is a part of the normal course of spiritual warfare for Christian husbands.
It works the same way for children. The Bible says to them: “Obey your parents. Honor your father and your mother” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Most children find this to be very difficult at times. “My parents can be so frustrating They don’t understand what it’s like for me.”
What is a Christian young person to do? He or she must recognize that this is spiritual warfare. Like every other Christian in every other relationship, Christian young people must understand (that they have resurrection power through Christ), believe (that they can obey and honor their parents through Christ’s strength) and act (be obedient and honoring to their parents). This is the battle that children and young people must fight.
Parents must apply this teaching in the very same way. Many Christian parents find themselves struggling in their efforts to raise their children. It takes patience, strength, understanding, consistency and discipline. Yet, it is not uncommon for parents to find that these inward graces are occasionally in short supply. It is hard to raise children God’s way. In fact, it is a battle.
So, how should parents take up the fight? Understand. Believe. Act. The fundamental responsibilities of parents are all wrapped up in Ephesians 6:4, “Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Parents (and not churches, youth groups, Sunday Schools or other schools) are responsible to bring their children up. And, they are to do it by employing the two irreplaceable tools that God has entrusted to them: 1) discipline (from the word, “training”), which includes the use of the rod of correction, and 2) instruction (from the word, “admonition”), which involves intentional communication.
Once this responsibility is understood, parents must believe that, through the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ, they can indeed fulfill it. Then, they must purposefully and decisively set themselves to the task of obeying the Scripture in what it says about child training.
Regardless of the situation in which you find yourself, the Christian life is a fight. The only way you will ever fight successfully is to remember who you are and, more importantly, remember Whose you are. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
For the fight of your life you need supernatural protection (v. 11)
“Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” In this verse Paul introduces a theme on which he will elaborate in verses 13-18. To engage in spiritual warfare effectively, Christians must protect themselves with the supernatural armor that our Lord provides.
The nature of the enemy dictates the kind of armor that we need. A Blackhawk helicopter is not needed to withstand the attacks of a single warrior with only a homemade spear. If, however, your enemy has a battalion of crack troops who are armed with surface-to-air missiles, then you would need far more than a single helicopter to survive.
Christians face a formidable foe. In Ephesians 6:11 he is called “the devil,” which means, “slanderer.” He constantly misrepresents Christians to God and God to Christians. All by himself the devil stands as an imposing opponent, but the Bible teaches that he is not alone in his battle against the believer.
In addition to Satan, Christians must also fight against “the flesh” (the sin that, despite our conversion, remains within us until we leave this life) and “the world” (the godless values and philosophies that predominate our culture). This unholy trinity is set to undermine the work of God in the believer’s life. And Satan is the personal strategist for them all.
He uses your sinful tendencies to tempt you in hopes that he might derail your spiritual growth. Paul warns against this specifically when he admonishes those who tend to seethe with anger to “not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27, NIV). Anger that is ignored and not put to death becomes an invitation for satanic activity in one’s life, resulting in untold injury to one’s self and others.
The devil also uses this fallen world’s attractions to entice Christians away from their first love. In Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan demonstrates how this works when he describes Christian and Faithful’s journey through the city of “Vanity Fair.” The devil and his companions, recognizing that the path to the Celestial City runs right through the town of Vanity, set up a fair along the road. All kinds of enticing merchandise was sold at this fair, with the sole purpose of tempting pilgrim’s to leave the path of life. Beelzebub, Bunyan notes, is the “chief Lord” of this fair.
The devil tries to ensnare believers by making the world and its enticements appear far more valuable than they are. Wealth, status, ease, honor and blessings of every kind, along with sinful pleasures and immoral activities are attractively displayed to ensnare travelers through the city. Anything and everything that would distract a person from loving Jesus Christ supremely can become weapons that the devil cunningly uses to ensnare believers. We need supernatural armor to stand against this array of enemies.
We also need it because of the nature of the fight that characterizes spiritual warfare. In verses 11 and 12 Paul mixes the language of the battlefield (“armor”) with that of the gymnasium (“wrestle”). The picture that emerges is one of hand-to-hand combat. The fight of your life isn’t fought with surgically precise, launched-from-a-distance smart bombs. It is guerilla warfare–the kind that was required in the mountains of Afghanistan during the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It is personal and intense. In this fight, bayonets are as important as bullets.
In order to fight successfully you need more than your own resources. You need the armor that God supplies. Many believers make a grave mistake at just this point. Because they are nice people, easy to get along with, reasonably intelligent or experienced, they are tempted to think that they can live the Christian life in their own strength. But natural gifts and abilities are inadequate for spiritual warfare.
A supernatural enemy calls for supernatural power in order to withstand him successfully. In Ephesians 6:12 Paul describes our enemy in plural terms. “Powers,” “rulers of the darkness,” “spiritual wickedness in high places”–these are the believer’s enemies. This is the description of Satan and his forces.
Some see in this description a very strict hierarchy in the demonic realm. While I am unconvinced by such arguments Paul’s elaborate language does suggest that we are up against a comprehensive array of spiritually wicked and powerful forces under the rule of Satan. The Scripture has much to say about the nature of our spiritual enemy, but notice the three descriptions that Paul gives us in these verses.
Satan and his forces are powerful. Paul refers to them as “principalities and powers.” Literally, he calls them “world rulers.” By God’s permission they wield power and authority over the earth. There is a significant measure of power that God allows our spiritual enemies to exercise and believers do well never to forget that fact.
Secondly, Satan and his minions are wicked. They are rulers of “darkness” and are called “spiritual hosts of wickedness.” The devil is pure evil, which is hard for us to conceive. He has no moral code, no principles of conduct. He is unscrupulous and malicious, determined to carry out his destructive work at any cost with any methods.
Finally, Paul describes the devil as cunning. Christians are instructed to stand against his “wiles.” It is the same word Paul uses in 4:14 where he warns against being taken captive by the “trickery” of men who in cunning craftiness lie in wait to deceive naïve believers. The devil rarely attacks a believer with a frontal assault. Rather, he employs stealth and operates by seduction, subtlety and deceit.
This is how he approached Eve–he first raised questions in her mind about the Word of God (“Has God indeed said ?” Genesis 3:1). Then he used the wedge of doubt to plant unbelief in her heart and mind resulting in her and Adam’s violation of God’s will.
No wonder Luther wrote of Satan in his hymn, “His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”
There are two opposite, yet equally deadly mistakes that Christians are prone to make in their evaluation of Satan. The first is to underestimate him, not to take him seriously. He loves it when we do that. It allows him to catch us off guard. The other error is to overestimate him. 1 John 4:4 reminds us that “He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” The devil is mighty, but he is not almighty. Ascribing too much power to him can breed fear and paralysis in our hearts.
What we must never forget is that the devil is our sworn enemy. You may forget about him, but he will never forget about you. If you are ignoring him or miscalculating his power, wickedness and trickery, then you have come under his influence by playing right into his hands. It is time that you wake up and recognize that there is a war going on and, whether you have been aware of it or not, you are involved.
As you you read this article today you are standing on one side or the other of this conflict. Either, you are a soldier for the Lord’s side and are decidedly standing against the devil, or you remain under the rule and leadership of Satan and are set in clear opposition to Almighty God Himself.
Few people think of themselves as being the enemies of God. Yet, that is precisely what the Bible teaches about those who are not following Jesus Christ in a life of repentance and faith. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30). To be against Jesus is to be opposed to God. Those who are in such a condition are subjects of Satan and as such, enemies of God. My unbelieving friend, do you see yourself in this light?
The good news is that God offers peace to those who oppose Him. He is willing to be reconciled to His enemies. The Bible says of every Christian, “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Every follower of Jesus Christ can testify that this is true. We were once God’s enemies, but we have been reconciled to Him. God’s offer of peace is real; it is legitimate. It is a bonafide, or good faith, offer. Not long ago many of us were in the enemy camp. Because of the sinful nature with which we were born, we were, as Jesus describes it, slaves to sin and children of the devil (John 8:34-47). But God had mercy on us. And He is willing to have mercy on you, also. What you must do is raise the white flag of surrender. Those are His terms: unconditional surrender to His Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior of your life.
It was because of His enemies that Jesus Christ came into the world. He died on the cross so that sinners would be reconciled to God. By repenting of your sin and rebellion and by believing in Jesus Christ, you will be saved–you will be delivered from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God.
My hope and prayer as I write this article is that you will not put it down without being reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. The promise of the Bible is this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus Himself said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). By confessing your sin and placing your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be saved.
What happens to the person who comes to faith in Jesus Christ? When a person comes to treasure Jesus Christ above everything else and is brought to peace with God, does that mean that, for him, the war is over? Not at all. What it means is that, as a forgiven, former traitor, he has switched sides. And because of that, he now finds himself in for the fight of his life. That is true for every Christian.
This fight, though real, intense and even deadly, will not destroy those who are trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord. He is our Captain, our Champion and the One who supplies our strength. Because of Him, victory is assured. It is true that we will not experience this victory without going through hard-fought battles. But we will, most certainly attain it. How? Through faith–faith in Jesus Christ who by His life, death and resurrection has fully and finally conquered sin, death and the devil.
Nothing in the devil’s arsenal is able to inflict a mortal blow on the child of God. No matter how violently he attacks us, God has promised that, because of Jesus Christ, we will remain standing to the very end. Listen to the confidence that the Apostle Paul expresses about this. He describes believers as “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Then he adds, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). Such promises give us strength and courage to engage fully in the fight.