Spiritual Warfare

“Spiritual warfare” is an idea based on the Apostle Paul’s words to the Assembly in Ephesus - “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers… against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So, how do believers wage war against these unseen forces of darkness?

We must heed the literary context of the passage. Paul’s statement is not disconnected from what preceded it. His declaration about warfare against spiritual powers summarized what he wrote in the previous chapters (“FINALLY… put on the whole armor of God”).

Armor - Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash
[Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash]

Paul provided a list of the “weapons” at our disposal for resisting Satan and living holy lives. This includes truth, righteousness, the “
preparation of the gospel of peace,” faith, salvation, prayer, and the “word of God.” The last one is, arguably, the most important - the “sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.”

The structure of the Greek sentence shows that the term “word of God” refers to the “sword” rather than “spirit.” The “sword” wielded by the Spirit is the “word.” It is the only listed “weapon” that can be used offensively against an enemy.

The “word of God” more accurately translates as the “utterance of God.” By “utterance,” he did not mean words spoken by God Himself, but the preaching of the Gospel, which is the Word of God. Its proclamation is how the Spirit uses the “sword” against the works and lies of the Devil that enslave men. This understanding is confirmed by Paul’s desire for utterance and “boldness of speech” to preach the “Mystery of the Gospel.”

Before we became believers, we were walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, the spirit that is working in the sons of disobedience.” Formerly, we “lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” Our sinful lives demonstrated our bondage to the Devil.

God draws us “nigh” though previously we were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of the promise, and without God in the world.” He makes Jews and Gentiles into “one new man,” having “dismantled the middle wall of partition between them.” Jews and Gentiles “have access in one Spirit to the Father.” They become “fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God… built together for a habitation of the Spirit of God.”

This is the “Mystery of Christ” unknown in previous generations. It was revealed through the preaching of the “Apostles and Prophets,” namely, that the “Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Considering this, Paul summoned believers to engage in holy living and he provided real-life examples of how to do so.

His description of spiritual “warfare” concludes this lengthy section by informing disciples about the true nature of their daily struggles. We, therefore, must “walk worthily of the calling wherewith we were called in all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” No longer should we be “blown about by every wind of doctrine,” but instead, let us speak truth in love and “grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.”

WALKING WORTHILY


We must “no longer walk as the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind.” Truth is “in Jesus,” and so we must discard the “old man” and be “renewed in the spirit of our minds.” The “new man” is created “in righteousness and holiness” for good works. Therefore, we must avoid falsehood and only speak the truth with others.

We avoid “giving place to the Devil” by doing positive acts for others, especially fellow members of the Assembly. Rather than steal, we ought to “work with our hands that we may have whereof to give to him that is needy.”

Satan works to impoverish our brothers and sisters. We resist him by feeding and clothing the hungry and naked. Rather than profane speech, we must speak only that which is “good for edifying.” We should put away all wrath and bitterness by being “kind to one to another, forgiving each other, even as God also forgave us in Christ. Our backbiting and expressions of anger “grieve the Holy Spirit.”

We are called to become “imitators of God,” therefore, we must walk in love just as Jesus did when he loved us and “gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet odor.” It was by his self-sacrificial death that he defeated Satan and the “powers and principalities” that enslave mankind.

Sexual sins and covetousness should not even be named in the Assembly. Instead, the saints should “give thanks” to God for His graciousness. They must “live in the light” and have no fellowship with the “unfruitful works of darkness.”

Wives are summoned to show reverence to their husbands. Husbands are called to love their wives “even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it.” Rather than get “drunk with wine” as sinners do, we are called to be “filled with the Spirit.” We do this by “speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord.

We apply “the whole armor of God” by “walking worthily of the Lord,” recognizing all the time that the source behind the temptations in our lives is Satan and his forces. We resist him by performing concrete acts of love and mercy. As Paul wrote, “Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

Finally, the Spirit of God empowers us to “walk worthily,” and to take the offensive against Satan and his works by proclaiming the “word of God” to men and women who live in bondage to sin and the Devil.



RELATED POSTS:
  • One Spirit, One People - (By his death and resurrection, Jesus formed one covenant community - One New Man - based on faith in him, not ethnicity or nationality – Ephesians 2:11-22)
  • The Narrow Road - (Following Jesus requires a lifetime of self-denial, sacrificial service for his kingdom, and a willingness to lose everything for his message)
  • The Mind of Christ - (The submission of Jesus to an unjust death becomes the paradigm for the love and service to others that disciples are summoned to manifest)

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