Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Real Spiritual Battle
We as humans are impressed with military power. Seeing laser and computer guided bombs and missiles destroy tanks, or drones blasting the enemy?they somehow make us feel safer like ?just try to attack us and we?ll unleash our mighty power against you.? The same holds true when it comes to spiritual warfare. I think that?s one reason why books like ?This Present Darkness? were so popular. Frank E. Peretti?s accounts of ordinary people battling the forces of darkness were compelling.
The war is real, the forces of darkness allied against us are real, and their power is real. Let?s look at Revelation 12:1-17 to see how this battle takes shape.
The reality is that we don?t get to see the battles that take place around us in the spirit realm. So how do we as ordinary Christians fight a battle without the eyes to see it? Let?s find out.
In Ephesians 6:10 it first appears that the Apostle Paul takes a right turn. We go from how to live a godly life in an ungodly world to fighting demons and full battle array. Is there any relationship here to the rest of the letter? Absolutely. In fact, I think what Paul is getting at in Ephesians is that while we are working on being transformed into the character of God and then endeavoring to show that character out in the world and share the gospel of Jesus?that we are indeed fighting a spiritual battle. We need not be fooled. We are soldiers in God?s army in a pitched battle?but though our weapons do not appear impressive, in fact they feel very ordinary?they are incredibly powerful and effective.
This week we look at the call to arms and see the setting of the battle. Next time we?ll look at the specific armament provided to us to fight this battle.
?Be strengthened? is a passive. Just as Paul said we are ?being renewed in the spirit of your minds? (4:23). We don?t muster up the strength ourselves. Essentially as you ?put on the new self? (4:24), the new character Paul has been describing in this book, you put on the strength of God. The word is related to dunamosa, which means ?dynamic?. God will become anything that is needed in the situation. ?His vast strength? uses the Greek ischus which means: ?ability, force, strength, might.?
In reality, the armor doesn?t mean we blast an unseen enemy with spiritual lasers and bombs, but we fight using the character of Jesus lived out in our lives and the Word of God coming from our mouths.
As we?ll see, there are actually only two offensive weapons in this arsenal. One is the Word of God (our short range tool for human to human engagements) and prayer (the long range artillery of the Spirit to soften up the battlefield).
But notice whose strength it is. As I said, we don?t muster it up ourselves, but it is God?s strength. Joshua was told in the midst of his battle to ?be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.? (Joshua 1:9). We sometimes think God gave us these weapons then like a general sends us out in the battle to fight on our own. No. God goes with you in the battle. That?s very comforting and encouraging.
Paul says to be strengthened by ?His vast strength.? We already looked at the word ?strength.? The ?vast? also means power. It comes from a root word meaning ?to be perfect.? God can give you what you need when you need it to represent Him and steal people from the enemy simply by being like Him.
Putting on the armor is the same thing as ?putting on? the character of Jesus (4:24).
As you think, speak, and act like the Lord, it is like a soldier prepared for battle. We have a lot of ivy around our house. It makes a good ground cover and a good hiding place for biting spiders. When I needed to check the dripper on a plant I didn?t just plunge my hand into the ivy, I put on gloves. I was then unafraid. The spiders? jaws could not penetrate the leather gloves so my hands were safe.
In the same way, as we allow God?s character to provide armor, we can venture into a battlefield filled with enemies and danger and remain unafraid. Nothing in the battle can truly hurt us.
Why does God want us to put on this armor? To ?stand?. Paul uses this word at least four times in this section (including ?resist? which is a form of ?stand.?). It means to ?hold your ground.?
God has placed us in this world as ambassadors, sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but also as soldiers because the enemy does not want this message to penetrate the minds of not-yet-saved people. He wants to move you off of your position?to weaken you and make you ineffective.
The aim in a wrestling match is to make your opponent fall down. The enemy will try using everything he can to stop your life from reflecting God?s character. He will use temptation, accusation, attack, insults, hateful things done to you, doubt, trial, reminders of your past, reminders of your inherent weakness, sickness, and financial trouble?anything he can lay his hands on. Those are his weapons. Your weapons actually involved the gospel and what Jesus did you for and is doing in you?but we?ll get to that in detail next time.
The items in the armor are designed to protect us against this sort of attack so we can stay on our feet and keep reflecting Jesus as the person God is making you to be.
Paul describes the action of the enemy as ?tactics?. The Greek word is where we get the English ?methods.? Here, it means ?to follow craftily, to deceive.? Remember, Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He wants to trick you into thinking you are unable or unworthy to keep pressing forward to become like Jesus and shine out His love.
The wonderful truth is that, by yourself, you are weak and unworthy. That?s why it?s called the ?armor of God.? Jesus died for your weakness and sin and has given you His life, righteousness, and strength.
So why worry about the tactics of the devil? Because he?s the real enemy.
I mentioned wrestling before ? the word ?struggle? is not used anywhere else in the Greek Bible but is akin to the sport of wrestling. This isn?t an arms length battle. The enemy is going to put his hands on you and try to knock you off your feet. And he will use other humans and your own mind to do it.
So how is it that we don?t fight against flesh and blood but spiritual forces of wickedness? We don?t see divisions of demons with pitchforks lobbing bombs at us or clawing at us. The combatants in the battle are human. You will encounter people and societies and cultures that are diametrically opposed to you as a Christian living your relationship with Jesus on the outside. But what Paul wants us to recognize is that you as a Christian are part of a larger struggle that is being waged by Satan and his demons. They are influencing and using people to do their bidding. Satan hates God and wants to hurt God and he will use people to do it.
This is helpful because it takes the focus off of the individual who is attacking. I experienced something recently where someone with power over me did things to me in part because I am a Christian and pastor a church. I need to understand that the true battle here is not between this person and me but the satanic power behind what is motivating them. They are a pawn. So I can pray for them as well as stand against the Devil who is really behind the attack.
Paul?s list here in verse 12 suggests that we are dealing with evil that has permeated both the heavenly realms (the spirit dimension) and earthly realms. As Paul says next, that?s why we need armor:
There are three activities here: preparation, resistance, and taking a stand. Paul is really summing up his letter here. This is what it?s all about. He?s explained how Jesus won the victory over the sin that separated us from God. He has exhorted us to then put on the character of God available through Jesus, and explained some practical ways we can do that, in how we think, how we speak, and how we act in our relationships, in our homes, and in our places of work.
All that is preparation. The Greek word for ?preparation? means: ?work? or ?to make a thing fit.? Part of the word is where get our English word ?energy.? It takes work and preparation to be ready. Why should we work so hard at it? Because Satan wants nothing more than to neutralize that character. Our job then is to 1) resist and 2) to take our stand.
James said it well: James 4:7 ?Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.? To ?resist? is ?to stand against.? I think of a strong wind blowing against us. You set your feet, lean into the wind, and resist it. For us, this is the strong wind of the values of this age and the dysfunctions in our minds that want to force us to once again speak, think, and act like we used to and not like the Lord. Instead we lean into the character of God, we ?submit? as James says. If we do that the Devil has no power over us.
You as an individual then take you stand. Like Joshua (24:15) said: ?? choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.?
Against that kind of soldier, the enemy is powerless and will flee, allowing you to represent Jesus and see His love overcome the fear instilled by the enemy.
Paul tells us to take up the ?full? armor of God. The word means a complete set of armor. For the Roman soldier that meant a helmet, sword, lance, shield, greaves (shin guards), and breastplate. For Christians the armor comes in a full set. You can?t have just one piece and be protected.
Next time we?ll break apart the pieces of armor and see how they fit together into the character and salvation and power of Christ.
In conclusion I want to point out that there are three imperatives in this section when it comes to spiritual armor: ?Be strengthened? (vs 10), ?put on? (vs 11) and ?take up? (vs 13). This is a joint effort. If you look at in reverse?we have the armor there waiting for us?this character of Jesus?but we have to reach out and take it up, then we have to put it on?only then can we experience the strengthening of God in order to be successful in fighting the battle. You can?t just fight this battle with human methods. You can?t negotiate your way through this battle. The values of this culture and this age cannot be mixed together in some kind of truce like ?land for peace?. We must fully give ourselves to the character of Jesus and be ready to be shot at. In the end, when it?s all over, we?ll be so much happier with how we did in this age than if we just try to take a seat on the sidelines and wait till the shooting stops.
The final thing to notice is that: what is the activity we engage in; what?s our mission? It?s to stand our ground. It?s not to go chasing after the enemy; looking for demons under every rock or make every battle casting demons out of something. It is also not to run and hide.
Our mission is resist the tactics of the enemy and keep representing Jesus. That?s what spiritual warfare is really about. Standing your ground, though, means you will get shot at, and sometimes those shots inflict wounds. In 1995 a man in North Carolina was shot 20 times and lived. Self-defense experts say that part of it is the sheer will to live.
Paul said: (Gal. 6:17) ?From now on, let no one cause me trouble, because I bear on my body scars for the cause of Jesus.? Here?s the good news: (2Tim. 4:18) ?The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom.? God promised that He would deliver us safely to His kingdom, but He did not promise we?d arrive scar free. After all, neither did Jesus, and that?s okay.