The Mailbag Guest Post: What is the biblical understanding of spiritual warfare?

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Due to teaching Vacation Bible School at church this week, I’m turning today’s Mailbag over to guest poster, Nikki Campbell. This article was originally published at her blog.

What is the biblical way of understanding exactly what spiritual warfare is? How do we “do” spiritual warfare in a way that lines up with Scripture?

Biblical Spiritual Warfare
by Nikki Campbell

Have you ever prayed for a hedge of protection around someone? Have you ever rebuked Satan in Jesus’ Name? Have you ever walked around your house and prayed in ‘Jesus’ Name’ for the cleansing of each room?

If so, then you may be as surprised as I was a couple of years ago when I found out that none of these are Biblical. I was taken by surprise because these are terms and phrases that are widely taught by many popular teachers in the “Christian” world.
And, so I assumed that they were Biblical.

“Few areas of the Christian life are more misunderstood than that of spiritual warfare”, writes Justin Peters in the forword for the book Truth or Territory.  He goes on to say, “Books and conferences on the subject provide instructions on how to wage this warfare by breaking generational curses, praying hedges of protection, exorcisms, mapping the spiritual realm, rebuking and binding the demonic hierarchy all the way up to Satan himself……Would it surprise you to learn that none of these techniques is necessary or even biblical?”

In fact, some of these superstitious techniques can lead to much fear and bondage. When we believe that we have the power and responsibility to rebuke and bind Satan and his demons, we can often feel trapped in a cycle of feeling the need to do it day after day in order to be safe.

“It is critical to accurately understand and apply what the Bible has to say about overcoming temptation and withstanding the wiles of the devil. If the evil one could convince a large enough percentage of Christians to substitute a superstitious approach to doing battle with him in place of the Biblical model, he would largely neutralize the witness of the church.” (Spiritual warfare- God’s way, Elliot Miller)

So, what is true, Biblical spiritual warfare?

Here are some suggestions of how to dig deeper in the Word regarding this subject.

1) Read Ephesians 6:10-20 several times. Notice that the word “stand” is mentioned four times. Why do you think it is emphasized? What are we standing against? Do a word study on the word “schemes”. Where else is it used in the Bible?

(Blue letter Bible is a great tool where you can find root word definitions, cross references and commentaries)

2) The Bible clearly teaches that our flesh, not the devil is our most influential enemy. Look up how many times the NT refers to the “flesh”, and how many times it refers to “demons”.

(Bible Gateway is a great tool for this)

“We have three enemies-the world, the flesh and the devil. These three work in concert with each other against the believer.  If our focus is only one of these enemies, we will quickly find that we are losing the battle on the other two fronts. Too often attention is focused on the devil and defeating him, while the battle against the world and flesh is neglected. As a result of being so preoccupied with only one phase of the battle, many Christians have suffered great infiltration on the fronts of the world and the flesh” (Jim Osman, Truth or Territory).

Here is an amazing sermon by Voddie Baucham, that addresses how the world the flesh and the devil work together.

Did you see “War Room”, where the main character walked around the house in one scene screaming at the devil to leave and go back to hell where he belongs? This movie, along with many famous preachers and teachers today, falsely teach that Christians have some kind of power and authority to boss Satan around. I encourage you to be wary of women’s Bible studies on spiritual warfare that teach women to ‘speak out loud so that that Satan can hear’, and that ‘we are to put Satan back in his place in Jesus’ Name’.

Ladies, we can’t just add “in Jesus’ Name” to the end of sentences and think that gives us the power and authority to do whatever we want. Other than Jesus Himself and His Apostles who were given Apostleship power, no where else in the New Testament are we told that we have the power to do this kind of thing.

In fact, let’s see what the Bible says about people who boldly and willfully yell at and command demons.

3) Look up 2 Peter 2:10-12 and Jude 8-13. What do these passages say about those who blaspheme the glorious ones (angels and demons)?

Did you notice that even the archangel Micheal would not not pronounce a blasphemous judgement against the devil, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

4) In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul referred to being given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him. Although the Bible doesn’t specify what this messenger of Satan was, some people believe that it was some kind of demonic harassment.

(Other views are that it could be (1) an inner psychological struggle, or (2) continued persecution from an opponent, or (3) some kind of a physical affliction. I tend to lean toward the physical affliction.)

For the sake of those who take the view point that it was demonic harassment, let’s look further into how Paul handled it. Look at verse 7 to see why it was given him. Did Paul command this messenger of Satan to leave in ‘Jesus’ Name’?  No!  What did he do/who did he turn to about this? (Verse 8).

Paul pleaded with God to remove this thorn, but when God responded with, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9), Paul not only accepted God’s will, but boasted about his weakness so that the power of Christ would rest on him.

5) 2 Corinthians 10:3-6  is one of my favorite passages addressing spiritual warfare.

According to this passage, what do the weapons of our warfare have the divine power to destroy (Verses 4 and 5)?

“The weapons of our warfare are not physical, but spiritual, such as prayer, the Word of God, faith, and the power of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit we tear down the strongholds of wrong thinking and behavior.” (ESV study Bible notes, pg 2235)

This is a truth war. A battle for the mind. Not a territorial, physical battle against Satan and his demons.

I highly recommend the book Truth or Territory, by Jim Osman. It really gave me great insight in understanding this subject from a Biblical perspective. So good!

I also recommend the 4 part sermon series called, Angels, Demons and Spiritual Warfare, by David Platt. HereHere, and Here are the other three parts.

Nikki Campbell is a Christ-follower, a wife, and a mom of two. She loves spending time in God’s Word, being with her family, and discipling women. She has a passion for learning and encouraging others to walk in truth. Her prayer is that God would be glorified, His kingdom would advance, and women would grow in knowledge, discernment and unity through her blog Unified in Truth.