Spiritual Warfare Primer

When ‘engaging in Spiritual Warfare’, many people tend to focus on specific aspects or actions like Prayer Walking, or making declarations, or healings or some of the more spectacular gifts of the Holy Spirit. It seems clear to me from Scripture, that the primary image used is that of soldiers in an army (2 Tim. 2:3-4; Eph. 6:10-18). Other images are used such as an athlete (1 Cor. 9:27; Heb. 12:1-2). But these all convey the idea that training, discipline and working together are essentials. We can only have authority as we are under authority – the Roman Centurion in Matt. 8:8-10 understood this and his servant was healed, but the seven sons of Sceva didn’t and paid the price (Acts 19:14-16)!

In any battle/war. You need to know:

  1. Who is fighting whom and for what?
  2. Where are the battles to be fought?
  3. What objectives are to be achieved?
  4. What strategies and plans will be used to achieve them?
  5. What tactics will be used to work that out?

Tactics are the actions which enable the strategic plans to be carried out so that they fulfil the objectives in the arena of the war.

The YouTube recordings of the four sessions in the Primer can be found here:

week 1 our ‘military intelligence’

week 2 our objectives and strategy

week 3 where is the battle, ground for engagement

week 4 the enemy’s tactics, and ours!

Where do we get this ‘military intelligence’ from?

Jesus has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). So what are our sources for this?

  • The Word of God – we must be saturated in the Word of God as Jesus was (Matt. 4:1-11; 2 Tim. 3:15-17)
  • The Spirit of God – it’s only with His power flooding in and through us (John 16:13)
  • Prayer – everything must be saturated in prayer, prayer and more prayer! (Eph. 6:18-20)
  • Unity with Others –-Soldiers march and fight together; no role for Lone Rangers or Loose Cannons in God’s Army! (Eph. 4:3, 11-16; Phil. 2:2-4) Even Paul submitted ‘his gospel’ to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and was sent out by, and reported back to, his ‘home’ church, taking others with him as fellow-workers.

With the help of some friends, I have put together a list of topics that we need to understand before we go “marching as to war”.

Why is there a war and who is it between?

In Genesis 3, satan declares war on God by tempting Eve and Adam. God joins battle in Gen 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will bruise his heel.” The ultimate victory is declared in the initial declaration of war! However, the grace which reconciles us to God antagonises us to the evil one. When an unbelieving soul becomes a follower of Jesus, they immediately have a bullseye on their forehead, which the enemy will target (1 Pe 5:8). But we must remember that the battle is the Lord’s (1 Sam. 14:27; Deut. 20:1-4) and that the battle has already been won at Calvary (Col. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:57).

Note: One may well ask if warfare is an option? Can I be a conscientious objector? Can I be a passive spectator and just pray and not engage? Why do we even want to fight – leave it to the clergy and professional evangelists?  It seems from the Scriptures, that there are no exemptions – Christians are ‘born for battle’ (in the words of Arthur Matthew’s book with that title) as the moment you switched sides to follow Christ, you were automatically enlisted in the battle – you have switched sides to be “on the Lord’s side”. You will be in the battle as victor or victim, but the battle is already won through Christ! So we must enjoy, and enforce, His victory over the enemy.

God’s objectives for Jesus’ Church

The Church the Lord Jesus is building is His only agent at this point in Redemptive history (Matt. 16:18-19) and takes its orders from above. Spiritual Warfare is not Whack-a-Mole – bashing random situations (and people!) as they pop up all over the place. It’s pro-active not just re-active, and should be following our Commander’s commands to:

  • make disciples Matt. 28:18-20 (training and discipline essential!)
    • who become like Jesus Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19

Jesus is already the victor and has already won the war! We fight from victory, not for victory. We are already conquerors in Christ (Rom 8:37).  So is it a case of wrestling back what Jesus has won for us?  Soul winning is “the great commission” and hence is not a battle as such, or is it? Satan has blinded the minds ot those who do not believe, and their souls have to be wrested from his power. That is the Holy Spirit’s work but requires much prayer on our part. Is it true to say that no one ever got save but that someone prayed for them?

Christians have not guarded, and maybe have left unattended, the legacy that Jesus gave us (in every conceivable way has the church compromised the Lord’s work?). Notice Paul says after wrestling, to stand after you have done everything.  So … the battle here is to take back and hold the territory occupied by the enemy i.e. lies (1 John 3:8) since he is a deceiver & the father of lies versus the Truth.

Jesus’ strategy

  • For the church which is His Body to be strategically planning and working towards His Objectives under His orders, “Even as Christ pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3; ten times in John’s Gospel, Jesus said that He came only to do/speak the Father’s will; then finally in Gethsemane “Not My will, but Yours”; the servant is not greater than his Master!)
  • requires the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26 NB addressed to the elders of Ephesus – THE book of the NT about this topic – which we will look at in the first of the topical sessions).
  • taking up the cross daily as we submit our will to the will of God, applying what we already know to be the will of God to our lives and seeking His will in the situations that arise.

Who is involved? Know your commander in chief and chain of command

Do we have a heart relationship with him, do we submit to his authority? Vital questions:

  • Are we dwelling in the secret place of the Most High? (Psa. 91:1)
  • Have we been with Him in His Pavilion (Psa. 27:5), learning from Him and getting His commands, so we can go out to claim the victory? (Psa. 27:6)

God is the only chief commander, with soldiers (disciples) and deputy chiefs, earthly ones in the form of leaders who help to direct God’s strategy. All believers are soldiers regardless of man-made divisions of clergy and laity. But we are to recognise God appointed leadership.

Who are the soldiers: what qualities and type of person?

All believers in Christ.  Do we walk with him daily? Do we esteem God as our overall authority?  We need to ‘keep short accounts’, confessing any sin as soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us of it, and especially before engaging in any spiritual battle (bearing in mind that we’re in a constant battle!), in order that we might have the authority and power that God gives. Are we self reliant (have all head knowledge but, no heart knowledge or relationship with the Father). Or are we God-dependent in our lives, especially in warfare?  Humility and obedience are vital! And we need to apply daily discipline.

What kind and where is the battle?

It is a spiritual battle; we are not wrestling against flesh & blood. The invisible and spiritual entities are manifested in issues that attack our relationship with God and with each other – health, marriages, family, church, doctrine e.g. Israel, etc., through physical problems and visible, tangible, feel-able problems here on earth. They manifest through “the enemy’s strategy” that we will look at in detail in the sessions.

But we don’t have to chase or look for every battle ourselves, armed with our gifts to thrust, jab and cut at everyone and everything. That way leads to unnecessary conflict and casualties. Perhaps what we need to be cautious about are specific and certain battles that, when God tells us first to go, then we prepare with prayer and fasting.   At all times we need to be ready, in and out of season (2 Tim 4:2-5; 1 Pe 3:15). The battle that ensues grows in intensity and scope according to the Chief Commander and is fit for purpose.  Not every battle is from the enemy!  God allows some battles in order to draw us near to him.  Recognising who the enemy is very important because if God allowed the affliction then we cannot fight against Him. We need to ask for wisdom in every and all types/kinds of conflict (James 1:2-5).

What spiritual battle/warfare is not

Very often we battle flesh and blood – we argue, fight with each other to win arguments etc … the enemy is not my brother or sister, it is satan and his demons.  Fighting flesh only disturbs our peace and distracts us from the real enemy.  God’s anointing in battle is for the spiritual not physical so don’t be distracted by the tactic of the enemy.

As Arthur Matthews points out in his book “Born for Battle”:

  • the business of war is learned in war, in actual combat situations, not from theories. Nothing is achieved by activities which do not bring us into close touch with the enemy!
  • but we fight from victory, not for victory – “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). We already occupy the higher ground, seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:5-6) and the best place to attack the enemy is from above – altitude is the secret and you can’t get higher than being in Jesus! (Eph. 1:20-23)

What are the grounds of engagement

There is a call for single soldier arm to arm combat (e.g. Jesus’ temptation, Jesus in Gethsemane) and there is also corporate army combat (involving the believing community,m e.g. Acts 4:23-31; 5:12-16). There are three levels of spiritual warfare every Christian needs to be engaged in:

  • personal
  • defensive
  • offensive

This take place in these arenas:

  • The world – the attraction of ‘things’, possessions, temptations, distractions (1 John 2:15-17)
  • The flesh – sexual attraction, relationships, looking after ‘no. 1’, especially in the arena of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:22-24, 2 Cor. 10:4-5)
  • The Devil – opposing the truth, oppression, the occult (1 Pet. 5:8; Gen. 3:1; Rev. 12:9-10, 17)

We shall explore how the three levels operate in each of the three arenas.

Who is the enemy and what are his strategies

Can we say with the Apostle Paul that we are not ignorant of his devices? (2 Cor. 2:11; 11:3, 14) We will look at this in some detail, but here are some introductory thoughts to arm ourselves with:

  • He attacks our minds – prepare for battle (Eph. 6:11-12; 1 Pet. 4:1-3, 7-11; 5:8)
  • He fights dirty – count the cost (Luke 9:62; 14:25-34)
  • Surprise tactics – Check your armour and wear it constantly. It’s not only to be put on when you go to battle – you are already in the battle field. Maintain the armour and the sword by knowing God’s word. (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:14-16)
  • Fear is his main weapon – How does a soldier deal with fear before and when in battle – these fears are real as soldiers are human, battling with spiritual powers in high places? (Rev. 12:11)
  • Deception is his other main weapon – Know the Truth (both the Living Word and the written Word)

What tactics to use – practical action! 2 Tim. 2:4; Luke 17:10

Spiritual Warfare is nothing if it is not practical action. It’s not an intellectual exercise ‘fought on the playing fields of Eton’ and nowhere else! The topical sessions will focus on practical application and include topics like:

  • Know your weapons (2 Tim.2:15)
  • Be clothed in humility (1 Pe. 5:5) Humility is a like a cloak that makes us invisible to the enemy! (Phil. 2:3-4)
  • Have faith, wake up faith and exercise faith (Mark 4:37).  
  • Know where your strength lies – in Christ (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 12:9)
  • Hold the line! Stand your ground! (Eph. 6:13; Ex. 17:8-15) Get ready to advance! (Matt. 11:12; 16:18)
  • “Be strong in the Lord”: so Moses (who fought 2 wars) told Joshua (who will be fighting many wars!).  David was strong in the Lord and fought Goliath in the battlefield.  He knew his weapons and use the right ammunition (sling and stones vs all the battle gear) to “help” him. David rejected them because he knew God’s word was the only weapon he needed.
  • Speak scripture in battle. (Matt. 4:1-11) Learn to aim arrows/strike the mark in prayer/intercession, pray strategically in the Spirit. We not called to battle so that we can win it, because Jesus has already won. To claim victory for ourselves smacks of pride and denies that Christ has won all battles in the first place on the Cross!
  • Take care of our spiritual food/drink (set times for nourishment by prayer and from the Word) and understand our supply lines for reinforcements and ammunition in battle.
  • Care of casualties – strengthen one another (Eph. 4:15-16; 4:32-5:2; Phil. 2:1-4; Col. 3:12-14; 1 Thess. 5:14-15)

God’s overarching objective is to bring everything together under the headship of Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). He thinks and acts strategically:

– The Cross was strategic (Col. 1:15-20)

– The Church is strategic (Eph. 1:20-23) and has Godly order:

  • God has set apostles, etc., in order in the body (1 Cor. 12:28)
  • Christ gifted apostles, prophets, etc., to the church to equip the saints and build up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13)
  • Spirit apportioning gifts as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11)

We shall look at examples, such as Paul wanting to go to Asia and Bithynia, but sent to Macedonia in Acts 16:6-10 (Peter will minister to the believers in Asia and Bithynia – see 1 Pet. 1:1)

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Eph 1:15-23 (ESV)