The Spiritual Enemies in our Spiritual War
© C. O. Bishop 2014 (THCF 7/6/14)
Ephesians 6:10-13; Judges 6:12-14
I recently watched a video of a “town hall”-type panel-discussion regarding last year’s attack on the US embassy in Syria. An Islamic American woman in the audience raised the question, “Why are you not answering ideological questions with ideology, and discussion, instead of proposing war?”
A forceful woman on the panel addressed the question, stating that she was glad the question had been raised, and noting that throughout the entire forum this was the first time anyone either from the audience or the panel had even mentioned Islam. All had focused entirely on the specific violent attack that had occurred, carefully ignoring the reason behind the attack.
She then went on to point out that there are around 1.2 billion Islamic people in the world, and, as the woman in the audience had inferred, 75% of them were completely peaceful. But she went on to point out that only the peaceful ones were willing to discuss matters, and that the remaining 25% then, comprise perhaps 300 million people (equal to the population of the United States) who are not willing, and not peaceful, and who are absolutely implacably committed to the destruction of Western Civilization.
Even then, she pointed out, most are not actively involved…but that it had only taken nineteen jihadists to destroy the trade towers and kill nearly 3000 people. She further pointed out that, during WW2, most Germans had wanted peace…but the Nazis ruled because the peaceful people would not resist them…and 60 million people died as a long range result. She recounted example after example of historical precedents where the peaceful majority proved to be irrelevant…it was always the violent minority who made the difference. It is always those who are willing to fight who become relevant in history, as sad as that may seem.
Now: though we know that the Quran demands that adherents to Islam wage violent “holy war” against all infidels, there is no passage in the Bible where Christians are encouraged to adopt violent means by which to achieve peaceful goals. (Yes, Israel was commanded to fight, and, many times they did…and still must do so today…but the Church is not Israel.)
But the New Testament addresses Christians, and a different sort of war is in view. There is also no passage that suggests we are not already soldiers in a spiritual war, with deadly spiritual enemies, absolutely committed to our destruction. If we want our lives to have eternal relevance, (and not fall prey to those enemies) we must embrace the fact of spiritual warfare.
The Source of Our Strength
Paul has just finished telling believers how to walk with the Lord, in Ephesians 4:1-6:9. He makes a complete change of subject (though closely related) in verse 10, saying how they should stand.
We tend to think of “Christian warfare” as a lot of “guerilla-tactics”, sneaking around, looking for a chance to “slip in a good word edgewise”. Sorry. That is not what it is about. It is not to be a battle of wits: quite frankly, compared to the enemies Paul describes here, we are pretty witless. And the people against whom we deliver our “spiritual zingers” are not our enemies, as we shall see. They are in league with them, to be sure, but, ultimately, they are the victims, as we ourselves have been.
Paul begins, then, with the command to “be strong”. Note that he addresses that command to “my brethren”—born again believers—children together of their real Father in heaven. Jesus said that the inhabitants of the world are not by nature the children of God, but of Satan. (John 8:44) Harsh, but completely factual…and Paul agrees, saying that we all began in that state.
But as Christians, we are commanded to “be strong”. Notice, too, that that is not the end of the command. If he only said “Be Strong” we could all order Charles Atlas training courses, or join gymnasiums or go get illegal steroid injections or something, trying to obey the command of God…and we would all be wrong. He says “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His Might.” This has nothing to do with physical strength.
Turn with me back to Judges Chapter 6, the story of Gideon. Judges 6:12-14 tells a very odd story: Israel was a nation under siege, and constantly terrorized by roving bands of Midianite raiders. Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh, was trying to surreptitiously thresh out a little wheat, and get that little harvest in without the Midianites seeing him. (The raiders had a pattern of letting someone else do the work and then swooping in to take the harvest.)
The Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon. Now, in our previous studies, we have seen that the Angel of the LORD always turns out to be the LORD, Jehovah, himself, and this is no exception—verses 14, 16, ff, all have the LORD doing the talking. But what He says is what is so significant: He called to Gideon, saying “the LORD is with thee, thou Mighty Man of Valor”. Gideon looked around and said “You’ve got the wrong guy!” I am the least in my father’s house, and our house is poor in our tribe. I’m no ‘mighty man’ of anything!”
But the LORD commanded him, saying “Go in this thy might…have I not sent thee?”
God knew who he was dealing with—a scared young farmer, just trying to stay alive and feed his family: but he called him a “Mighty Man of Valor”…and then revealed what made him to be strong. In the first place, he said, “The LORD is with thee!” and, in the second place, he said “go, in THIS thy strength: Have I not sent thee?”
The twin facts that as a called individual,
- God was with him, and
- that God was sending him on a mission
were what guaranteed the strength to do the assigned task. Well! Wouldn’t it be nice if we had those two things? Of course, you already know the answer to that; we do!
How do I know God is with us? Because Jesus guaranteed it, over and over. He said that the Holy Spirit would be with us forever (John 14:16) (remember—the Holy Spirit is God), that He himself would not abandon us (John 14:18), that He and the Father would take up their abode with us (John 14:23), and, particularly, in the context of the Great Commission, he gave his promise “I am with thee always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) So: can there be any doubt that God is with us? No! The only question remains: are we with Him?
God went to a great deal of trouble to get Gideon to walk with him. We like to remember Gideon “laying out the fleece”, but forget that this was specifically an act of doubt. God had just appeared to him in person, and given him a command. Gideon responded with “How do I know you really are who you say you are, or that you are sending me at all?” The two incidents with the fleece, and the subsequent night-prowl to the enemy camp were meant to allay his fears. God really wanted him to do the job, and it seems He really went a long way to get him on his team.
So what does it take to get you on His team? He already died for you. (Of course, he died for Gideon, too, but poor old Gideon didn’t know that.) He gave you the indwelling Holy Spirit; (Gideon didn’t have that particular blessing either.) He gave you the whole Bible. (Gideon may have seen the Torah, but probably from a distance. We don’t even know if he was literate: this was during a very dark period in Israel’s history.) The fact remains that we have been given more evidence and more blessing than any other group of people in History.
You may think, “Ah, but Israel had the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Manna in the desert, not to mention the miraculous gushing river of water from the Rock.” Yes, and they soon forgot them. You have the record of those miracles, and your own copy of the entire Bible…do you read it? Do you believe Him? God wants you on His team, and He has already promised to be with you, and He has called you and has already sent you.
Where has he sent us? Matthew 28:19, 20 “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We treat the Great Commission as if it were the marching orders for eleven or twelve men, but not for us. But read the rest of it: “…teaching them (that’s us) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. Yes, the Great Commission is to all Christians, in all ages and all places in all the World.
Gideon was told, in effect, the same thing that we are told, except that his marching orders were different. “Go, in this thy might: have I not sent thee?” He was to wage war against the Midianite raiders destroying Israel. We are to join battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in this world…not against flesh and blood.
We are to be strong in the Lord and in the Power of His might…not our own.
Our Defense Against Evil
So what is to be our defense against the evil in the world, and, more importantly, against the invisible, active agents of evil around us? (Whoa! What’s this “invisible” stuff? Where did I get that?) In the next few verses we will find out that ALL our real enemies are invisible. So, how will we defend against an invisible enemy?
We are commanded to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the “wiles of the devil” (devil means “adversary”, or “enemy”, but in this case we are to see that ALL of our enemies are under the headship of that one Enemy, the Devil, who “walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom He may devour.”)
So, any humanistic defenses will be useless; only the armor of God will suffice. For some reason The World is regularly feeding the public video games and movies with the idea that humans can fight demons…shooting at them, etc. Come on! In the first place they are invisible. In the second place, they are completely immune to anything humans can do, let alone bullets, blades and other such nonsense. God gives the only weapons that have any effect, in the next few verses. We will not get that far today, but you can read ahead and see that we are given a handful of defensive weapons and two offensive weapons. And none of them are connected in any way to human ability.
Think of Gideon again: If you recall, the way the battle was ordered by God was that God first took away all but 300 of his troops. The next thing was that God saw to it that both hands of each of those soldiers were full, so they could not use any weapon in the battle. They were to:
- Shine a light (remember the jugs and the torches?) and
- Blow a trumpet and Shout (evidently alternating between the two; sound an alarm.)
Isn’t that what we are also to do?
- Stand fast
- Shine the light of a holy life
- Sound the alarm of the Gospel—the good news and the bad news.
But our armor is a little different, as we shall find out next time.
So…who are our enemies?
God’s Word says we have three major enemies, all under the leadership of one Enemy; Satan. He also has henchmen that we call demons, but the main way the enemies are listed is:
- The World
- The Flesh
- The Devil
(So, how could I have said that they were all invisible? I see the world around me every day, don’t I?) No, as a matter of fact, I see the people of the world: people for whom Jesus died. 1st John 2:2 states unequivocally that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; the full satisfaction of the righteousness of God on their behalf. So, if you think you are looking at one of your enemies, remember that he or she is definitely someone for whom Jesus shed His precious blood. And we are commanded to reach out to them with the Love of God.
“The World” that is our Enemy is the world system of thinking, values, and motivation that controls all the nations, politicians, and unbelievers of every kind. The people themselves are sinners for whom Jesus died. The system is and always shall be an enemy to your soul.
“The Flesh” refers to our old sin nature, irremediably given over to self-will. God can’t repair it or redeem it, so it will be done away through physical death. In the believer’s case (who has a new nature) this will provide eternal freedom from sin, because when the body is resurrected, the only nature left will be the new nature. For the unbeliever, it means eternal loss, as the only resurrection they face is the resurrection of the damned; eternal separation from God in the lake of Fire.
“The Devil”.—Satan himself—is the leader of all his armies, which not only include the invisible evil hosts named here (“principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world” are all in reference to angelic beings) and the spiritual wickedness in high places, but also of the world and the flesh according to Ephesians 2:2, 3.
The Goal: To Stand
And, against all these enemies we are to do what? Just stand! But as we stand, we are to shine as lights in a dark place (Philippians 2:15), and to sound the alarm of the Gospel, so that we serve as ambassadors of God, offering His terms of salvation to all who are willing. (2nd Corinthians 5:19, 20) We cannot re-write history. God will carry out His judgment in His own time.We are to let God handle the execution of His enemies. We are only to reach out to them in Love.
(Next time: The Armor)
Father God, help us to see your presence and your command as the full and sole source of our strength, and to take that command as our own personal marching orders, in Jesus’ Name, and for His sake.