Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5: 8-11)

‘Spiritual warfare’ is a very current topic in the Christian world. There are all kinds of weird and wonderful teachings around regarding spiritual warfare; we have international prayer movements that teach and write about spiritual warfare; we even have people who regard themselves as specialists on spiritual warfare – generals, they are sometimes called!

But what is ‘spiritual warfare’ if there is such a thing in the Bible?

Unfortunately, many of the ideas about so-called ‘spiritual warfare’ are gleaned from the Old Testament – things like identifying ‘Jezebel’ and other kinds of spirits, identifying principalities and powers and pulling down strongholds, doing Jericho marches and prayer walks, dealing with gates and altars etc., etc. We have to ask, ‘How legitimate is this way of dealing with the devil? Is this the teaching of the New Testament?’

Both Peter and Paul did not deny the existence or the activity of Satan. He is powerfully at work in the world through unbelieving people. But what power or influence does he have in the lives of believers and how do we deal with him and his minions?

Firstly, for those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He rose from the dead and who live by the truth, Satan has lost the power to deceive. Jesus exposed and defeated him through the cross (Col 2: 15) If not, then He died in vain. When He cried out, ‘It is finished!’ He meant it. Believers have been ‘rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought (us) into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ (Col 1:13, 14)

As long as we believe and live by the truth, he has no power to touch our lives any longer. The only power he has is the power we give him when we believe his lies and open ourselves to his influence. We are immune from his wicked schemes. So, what does he do? He tries to trick us into believing that he still has the power to harm us. Peter and Paul’s answer to his lies? Stand! Stand! Stand in the truth! Don’t fall for his lies. Don’t believe what he insinuates. Resist him by submitting to God and standing firm in the faith.

It is true that our struggle is against principalities and powers, not human beings. They are the agents through which the devil works. It is true that the devil is always trying to destroy us, like a roaring lion on the prowl for prey but, as long as we are aware of what he is up to, and do not allow him to lure us into his ways, we have nothing to fear. We are protected by the power of God’s name. (John 17: 11)

But what about so-called “warfare” against the devil in the world? Are we not supposed to engage the enemy on behalf of the lost? Yes, we are, but not in the way that it is being done. We must take our pattern from the New, not the Old Testament. It is not the so-called spiritual warfare prayers that rescue people from their wicked ways but the power of the truth.

The city of Ephesus is a case in point. When Paul went to Ephesus, it was the seat of the worship of the many-breasted goddess Diana, or Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, of wild creatures and of birthing. She was called ‘great’ to distinguish her from all other lesser goddesses of the same name. She had the attributes of Ashteroth, the female counterpart of Baal.

How did Paul deal with Diana-worship? Did he lead prayer marches around the city? Did he hold prayer meetings to discern the identity of the principalities and powers over Ephesus and pray ‘powerful’ prayers to pull down strongholds? Did he pray at the gates of the city? No, he did none of these things. He preached Jesus. And the result? People turned to the Lord; they burnt their books on witchcraft; Diana lost her power and the silversmiths, led by Demetrius, lost their business and set off a riot against Paul.

Jesus told His disciples at Caesarea Philippi, the ‘red light district’ of Israel, where Pan was worshipped by people having sex with goats, that there where the devil’s practices were rife, He would build His church and not even hell itself would be able to withstand it. How would He do that? By placing His yoke, His way of understanding and applying God’s teachings, on the very people whose yoke was the yoke of Satan.

Come on, people of God. Let’s get real. Let the Bible teach you, not those who have invented their own theories and now consider themselves experts. We do not need to be taught how to do spiritual warfare. Every time we obey the word of God and live by the truth, we defeat the devil. Every time we share the message of Jesus and someone turns to the Lord, he loses another battle.

If we spent as much time sharing our faith with others by our lives and lips instead of learning how to do spiritual warfare and engaging in these futile activities, the kingdom of God would be advanced more powerfully than it is advancing right now.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Luella Campbell

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