(2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
In my last post I discussed the fact that we are at war, but it is not a physical war against flesh and blood. Instead we are at war in the spirit for our enemies are spiritual, the primary enemy being the devil himself.
Needless to say, this is a different war, fought on a spiritual battleground. As a consequence it requires a different set of weapons from those used to wage a worldly, fleshly war. We do not use guns, knives, swords, tanks, explosives and bombs to fight this war, because the nature of this war is different.
Spiritual war is not about the capture or killing of people in the physical sense. It is about the capture of the hearts and minds, even the soul and life of people. The devil seeks to destroy our eternal life by snatching away salvation through the destruction of our faith. But in Christ we have the victory, if and when we come to Him and take the weapons of war designed to wage this spiritual war. So let us first look at the nature of this war and then consider what the weapons are we need to fight, and how to use them.
The Nature of the Spiritual War
The nature of this spiritual war is that it is fought on the battlegrounds of the mind and spirit. We will win or lose this war in our minds, hearts, spirits and soul. The scripture in this section describes well the nature of this war and the battleground upon which it is fought.
”…for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
In my last post I discussed the fact that there are two aspects to this spiritual war. The first is the external attacks that come from other people at the instigation of the devil. The second are the internal attacks where the devil preys on our weaknesses in an attempt to tear us down and pull us away from the Lord.
Both of these are indicated in the verses above. The external attacks can be seen in the “…arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God.” It is pride and arrogance in others who believe they know better who oppose what we believe in Jesus Christ. It is pride that leads to arguments where they deny the existence of God and the salvation we have in Jesus Christ. And so we need the right weapons to overcome these arguments, pride and divine strongholds against the truth of Christ
The internal attacks are those where we doubt the power of God through Jesus Christ to save us. We say and think things like, “I’m not good enough,” or, “It’s too hard,” or, “Why would Jesus care about me,” or “I’m a sinner and will always be a sinner,” or, “How could God forgive me for doing _______ (you fill in the blank), and so on.
And there is a second part to this internal battle also. Each of us has passions, lusts and desires within us that can drive us to do what we do not want to do, and that are contrary to the word of the Gospel. Some people suffer from desires for alcohol, gambling, sex, money, violence and other things. Some have strong passions of anger, envy, jealousy, wrath, gossip and vindictiveness or worse.
The devil is a master at “tickling” those passions, lusts and desires to bring them to the surface and so cause us to lose control by doing the very things we do not want to do. If you read Romans chapter 7 you can see an account of how Paul succumbed to his personal temptation of covetousness and how it led him to do the very thing he hated. Make no mistake, if you have a weakness, you will be tested on it and they are extremely hard to overcome, in fact they are nearly impossible without the help of the Lord.
This is where we need the weapons of this spiritual warfare to be able to “…take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
And so we see the two key aspects of this spiritual war. The internal battle where have to fight the very passions, lust and desires of our own mind and flesh, and the external battle where the devil throws other people in our way to try to lead us astray.
Weapons of War
The first of the weapons to consider, which will overcome arguments and the proud obstacles rejecting the knowledge of God, is to use the knowledge of God to overcome. Those who oppose us from a lack of knowledge of the truth can be overcome by wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The word of God is the truth, and we must become immersed in the knowledge of the truth and so be able to stand and fight the attacks of the enemy that are built on lies and half truths (which are just another form of lie and deception).
You and I need to study the word deeply and take it into our hearts. Learn what the bible says and apply it in your life. Gain an understanding of the word so that it is at your fingertips and on your tongue when it is needed to address any temptation or attack of the devil.
Remember when Jesus was led into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, and how He overcame the temptations thrown at Him by the devil. In every instance Jesus responded to the temptations of the devil by using scripture, the word of the truth. He said, “It is written…” and so proceeded to put the devil in his place and defeat all the temptations thrown at Him.
We need to take Jesus’ example and also gain an extensive knowledge of the scripture so as to fight off the spiritual attacks of the devil that are thrown at us from those who oppose God and Jesus Christ.
As for how we are to wage the internal war, again we need this same strong knowledge of the scripture, but God has given us more weapons to deal with the flesh and all it’s passions. And we need more weapons because the external war, though tough to fight, is not as hard when the enemy is within your own mind. That is why in this scripture we see the need to “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” The war within is fought from one thought to the next.
Ephesians chapter 6 gives us a good overview of the spiritual weapons of warfare that we have at our command. The most important thing for us, like any soldier, is to learn how and when to use and wield these different weapons effectively.
12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:12-18)
Here we see Paul first make the statement again that the battle we wage is not against a flesh and blood enemy. We are fighting a spiritual war against the “…spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
And because we are waging this war in the spirit, Paul entreats us to take the whole armour of God, and he goes on to describe each piece of the armour.
We begin by “girding our loins with the truth.” As I mentioned above, it is imperative that we learn the truth and are immersed in it. There are many lies and half truths taught in the name of Jesus Christ in the modern church, where the devil has infiltrated and swayed the church to follow falsehoods. But it is our personal responsibility to test everything we are being taught and to learn the truth for ourselves rather than blindly accept what other men say, no matter who they are or the positions that they hold in the church. This is the only way to ensure your loins are girded with the truth…to find out for yourself. And the Lord said if we seek, ask and knock, He has promised to show us the fullness of the truth.
The breastplate of righteousness, like the breastplate armour worn by soldiers, is meant to protect our life. The vital organs of the body are protected by a breastplate, and so too the righteousness that we have by faith as a gift in the grace of God protects our life. We have been set free from sin and proclaimed righteous by God when we believe and enter into the death of Jesus Christ through baptism and by faith. We are free from sin and free from condemnation because God said so. But the devil will throw up thoughts where we feel guilty or we self-condemn in an attempt to wrest away the righteousness we have by faith in Jesus Christ. Hold fast to the breastplate of righteousness and he cannot attack your vital underlying beliefs in Christ.
The gospel of peace is what we walk in and thus why Paul says to wear it like shoes. It is a solid gospel and it will bring you peace in the times of conflict when you hold fast to the words of the gospel. In Christ we receive salvation and must take comfort knowing that and so be at peace.
The shield of faith is what we can stand behind whenever the devil attacks us, either from within or without. Nothing can get through the shield of faith if we hold it out and stand strong in it and behind it. God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength, and so we hold onto truths like this in faith, knowing that what God promised, He will do. The victory is won in Jesus Christ and we must stand strong in that faith also.
The helmet of salvation covers our minds and we must continue to believe we are saved. We are not doomed to destruction as the unbelievers are, but have been rescued from death and destruction of the spirit by God and Jesus Christ. Salvation is why we come to Jesus, because we need a saviour to save us from sin and to redeem us from the fate that awaits the rest of the world who reject God.
We come now to the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Note that it is the “word of God” that is the sword, not the Spirit himself. Again this emphasises the critical need for us to be immersed in the word of God. It is the teachings in the scriptures the Spirit needs to wield the sword against the attacks of the devil. And when the Spirit needs to fight for us, the word is there at hand if we have immersed ourselves in the truth and studied it. As we study and learn the truth in the bible, we are arming the Spirit to fight on our behalf, for the word is His sword. If we do not provide the Spirit with a sword, how can He fight effectively for us against the taunts and thoughts of the evil one?
Finally we see Paul encourage us to, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” This is speaking in tongues. Every time we pray with our mind, asking or seeking the Lord for His will or to seek something from Him, we should also pray in tongues as well so that the Spirit can intervene on our behalf directly to God. Now I know that many people do not believe or accept speaking in tongues claiming it was something that existed only in the early church. But rather than say whether those people are right or wrong, I say to you, seek for yourself. Ask the Lord about this matter. There are many people who DO believe and who practice speaking in tongues today. It may be possible that they know and understand something that is a gap in your understanding if you do not accept this gift from God. And I am certain that if asked they would explain their position on this matter.
I know and am convinced that there is no gift from God that should be rejected and no gift from God is ever without a purpose that can greatly help those who receive the gift. Speaking in tongues is no different. It has a purpose that is crucial to ALL Christians that even many who do have the gift do not fully understand. So I encourage you to ask and seek the truth of this issue and not be held back by doubts or the reservations of others, or yourself for that matter. You must find the truth about ALL of the gospel and the gifts of God if you are to effectively wage this spiritual war. And that means a full understanding of all of the weapons of war.
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