Church people talk about spiritual warfare, but in reality, very few of us encounter battles in the spiritual realm on the scale of Daniel, Esther or Jesus, and many of us hope we never have to do so. We do, however, encounter battles that should be dealt with in the spiritual realm, and often we deal with our concerns every way but spiritually. Eventually though, if a problem isn’t solved naturally, we pray about it. But is that really where spiritual warfare starts? What about all the ‘armor’ that is supposed to protect us? What about the other weapons? Shouldn’t all prayer be considered spiritual warfare in the sense that we are speaking with God, who is Spirit, and asking Him to do something that cannot be accomplished in the natural, physical realm? Most people, even Christians, have never experienced answers to prayer in the way Jesus states in John 14:13-14. If Jesus is truthful and He meant what He said, why are so many requests not granted?
Jesus said, more than once, that believers could have whatever they asked.(1) Yet the much of the church world doesn’t have this experience. What are we missing? We are supposed to have powerful weapons(2) at our disposal, are they not powerful enough? Is Satan more powerful? 1 John 4:4 says he is not more powerful, and Colossians 2:15 says he has already been defeated. Yet the experience of many Christians is not that of the ‘more than a conqueror’, ‘more abundant’ life Jesus intended. Why?
Paul outlines seven basic items that the Christian needs, five are protective (defensive) and two are offensive. Interestingly, prayer is the very last item; all the other items are put in place before the warrior goes to prayer offensively. These items are not random or trivial or gratuitous metaphors for literary interest. This list is inspired by the Holy Spirit like the rest of scripture, but like much of Paul’s writing, what is under the surface is more than what is seen at first look.
It is estimated that there is $147 billion worth of counterfeit money circulating the U.S. currently. There are at least nine security measures built in to every authentic Federal note of paper currency. In spite of these security features, businesses accept these counterfeit bills every day. Why? Because they didn’t take the time to learn about the real item’s security features; in order to spot the fake, the true item needs to be the base of knowledge—the authentic item must be studied. Studying the fake won’t ensure success; knowing the truth and comparing every fake to the true standard will.
It is of interest that the first item Paul lists to combat Satan’s schemes is a ‘belt of truth’. In Paul’s day, the various pieces of armor secured to the belt: it held the tunic in place, and both the sword and dagger would be held with the belt. The belt is critical. So is the truth. The truth of God’s word is the standard to which each piece of information must be compared. Whether a news report, academic input, religious instruction, financial forecasts, health diagnosis or a rebellious child’s accusations, everything must be held against the truth of God’s word. Nothing can be taken more seriously than Biblical truth; truth is one of the Holy Spirit’s titles—the Spirit of Truth. The truth you know will set you free…from worry, from doubt, from fear. But the truth must be known and internally absorbed to be ‘worn’ as a belt.
Doctors, meteorologists, engineers, pharmacists, anyone who has studied a specific subject in depth for any length of time knows their subject. They not only know the subject, they believe it. The doctor is certain that specific symptoms indicate a specific ailment; meteorologists know that specific clouds indicate a specific weather event; engineers have to be sure that their calculations will guarantee the intended outcome and pharmacists have to know the actions, reactions, interactions and side effects of the chemical formulas in their drugs. Humans spend their lives absorbing information and formulating beliefs based on that information. Whether a ‘professional’, formally educated or not, everyone is an expert at their own beliefs. We each spend vast amounts of time intentionally and unintentionally absorbing information that then gets incorporated into beliefs and values.
If a person isn’t spending time daily in God’s truth, they will not absorb it and give it the proper elevated position, and therefore won’t recognize the counterfeit information (lies.) Satan knows scripture-he used it to tempt Jesus, he knows human logic, and he knows how to twist the truth and logic into convincing lies. He has had a lot of practice and the human mind is no match without the living, active, powerful word of God renewing it daily. Without knowing the truth, righteousness is vulnerable, the mind is compromised (not renewed), and both defensive and offensive weapons are non-existent. Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God—literally!
When the truth is firmly in place, the breastplate of righteousness can be secure. Righteousness can only happen when God’s word is believed. If you don’t believe God’s word, you can’t obtain righteousness, so truth must be in place first. This piece of armor is the same as God’s breastplate of righteousness. Born again believers are clothed in God’s righteousness and, in Christ, become the very righteousness of God! It is impossible to have unity with the Father and Jesus without partaking of the gift of righteousness. The righteous have privileges of sons (heirs) and the unity of family.(3) In warfare, this knowledge and unity is very important; it is something the seven sons of Sceva lacked even though they were part of a priestly family.
The next protection believers are given deals with peace. This is an often under-appreciated part of the protective ‘armor’. The Jesus-type priest Melchizedek was the priest of Salem, (later named Jerusalem), which in Hebrew means whole, complete and peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace—not faith, not salvation, not war. It is interesting that in both Jesus’ arrival and departure, peace was given. His arrival was heralded with an announcement of peace--in Jesus’ birth, the earth was given peace in the assurance that God was not at war or even angry with mankind; on the contrary, in Jesus the earth was made to be at peace. At His departure, Jesus left His peace to His followers—they are to be at peace with the saved and unsaved, regardless of the situation. Jesus and Stephen demonstrated a gospel of peace that supersedes fear or pain or understanding, a peace that shared the gospel message of love and forgiveness through their actions and dying words. Paul says to let peace be your umpire even to the point of being wronged or cheated in order to preserve unity and not detract from the gospel message.(4) The believer’s life is to be enveloped in peace like Christ’s, not riddled with anxiety, depression and stress. Anxiety, stress and depression rob us of health, pleasure, rest and time. “The thief comes but to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that they may have life and that more abundantly. “ Recognize the thief and use the gospel of peace (and truth) to defeat him. Like the cleated sandals of Romans soldiers, footing is secure when peace is in place.
The shield is not a fixed or stationary part of armor and is used even when other pieces are not-- in some ways, a shield is the most important piece of defensive armor; it is a very suitable analogy to faith. Faith determines every part of the believer’s being, spiritual or natural life; it is the currency of the spiritual realm. Jesus said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” It is impossible to please God without faith. Habakkuk 2:4, “the just will live by faith” is quoted repeatedly in the New Testament. Fortunately, God has given every single person enough faith—it only takes a small amount—and also the ability to enlarge their faith! Faith is a gift from God, the believer doesn’t have to gin up some mysterious stream of faith power on his own. Faith is directly related to hearing—so it is important to ‘hear’ the whole word of God.(5)
Like the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation is also part of God’s own armor. While the breastplate covers the heart or spirit, the helmet covers the soul or mind. The human mind can be the devil’s workshop and playground if not protected. Thought-life is where the battles are fought, and won or lost. The mind filters natural and spiritual inputs and determines which input rules. Sight and sound are the primary external methods of input, but there is an inner voice that also works to taint thought-life through condemnation and accusation. History tells a story of the fortified city of Lydia falling to Cyrus the Great because of a helmet. Paul admonishes believers to renew their minds and measure every thought and input against by the truth of God’s word before acceptance, casting down any idea that is not in line with Christ’s redemptive work, or is condemning or accusing.(6)
Once the defensive armor is in place, and only then, it is time to go on the offensive. Paul describes two offensive weapons, and these are the mighty, powerful, divine weapons with which the believer tears down strongholds. The defensive ‘armor’ will eliminate many of the personal battles by simply keeping harmful things away. These five defensive tools become a personal hedge of protection when kept in place. When the believer knows the truth, believes the truth, recognizes his position with God and God’s generous position toward believers, the believer can come to the intended spiritual maturity. It is the spiritually mature Christian that can operate effectively in the ‘harvest fields’ and use the offensive weapons in their own sphere of influence and beyond. But just like any other skill, growth comes through practice; and with God, the limits are infinite.
The first, the sword of the Spirit, is the word of God. This isn’t prayer, this is everyday speech. The Word is what the Holy Spirit uses against the devil! This is the Holy Spirit’s weapon of choice! There is no more powerful weapon than God’s word flowing out of our mouths! It is what Jesus used in the wilderness to defeat Satan. There is no power in hell that can stand against God’s word. But the believer cannot use what he does not know. Truth must be in place first. Eve, had she given heed to and accurately remembered God’s instructions about the tree, would have immediately recognized Satan’s temptation and distortion of God’s words. Satan quoted Psalms 91 to Jesus in the wilderness, and if Jesus had not read, memorized and understood Deuteronomy 6:16, He could not have answered Satan. This is so powerful, it is no wonder Paul calls it a sword. Our words—especially when we aren’t praying—need to align with God’s words. If Paul had known about fighter planes and bombs, I believe he would have used that analogy instead.
The second weapon is prayer. Paul finds no item of combat wear worthy of comparison to prayer. Prayer is so potent it is incomparable. This brings us back to where most believers start. We have all heard prayers that go something like “Please give brother and sister so-an-so grace as they prepare for the death of their poor sick child. Lord, take this child home quickly. We are unworthy sinners, but we beg for your mercy. Thy will be done.” A prayer like this is so ignorant, un-scriptural and absent of faith or truth that it must sadden a God who went to great lengths to give life abundantly and destroy the works of the devil. If you don’t know God’s will in a matter, that is where to start. God’s word clearly states His will throughout the Old and New Testament. Furthermore, believers are to know God’s perfect will, so in most cases, it is just lack of diligence to not learn the will of God for a situation. Pray for wisdom—which God gives liberally to all who ask, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you, and renew your mind in the word, which gives us the ‘mind of Christ.’ If you don’t know how to pray for a specific situation, find appropriate scripture and pray scriptures over that situation and let peace guide the decision.(7)
Paul’s exact instruction is to “Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition.” Many believers choose to ignore the phrases “in the Spirit” and “at all times”, and as such, are depriving themselves of the full power of prayer. If you do now know how to pray in the Spirit, start there: pray the Word of God and ask, seek and knock (Luke 11:9-13.) Paul has much to say about this in 1 Corinthians 14. From the beginning, in the first century at the church in Corinth, Satan fought this type of prayer by trying to make it divisive and chaotic. Even so, Paul instructs church leaders not to forbid such prayer. It is powerful, builds up the believer’s holy faith and inner man, and ushers in the kind of activities that make “Satan fall like lightening from heaven.”(8) Spiritual warfare demands the warrior have and make use of every tool available, so don’t skip this one. 1 Corinthians 2 says:
These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
When our knowledge of the indwelling Spirit of Truth becomes experiential, God’s guarantee becomes real;(9) the things of the spiritual world become clearer, our Father’s heart is revealed and prayer is a meaningful release. Let the Holy Spirit of God teach you to pray and be your Prayer Partner; when you do this, you will find your prayers changing to reflect God’s Fatherly heart of generous love. And suddenly, you will start having the experience Jesus described when He said “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”(10)
1. Ask and you will receive--Mark 11:24, Mat 7:7, 18:19, 21:22, John 14:13, 15:7, 16:23
2. Powerful weapons--2 Corinthians 10:4-5
3. Righteousness—Isaiah 59:17; 1 John 2:29-3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:22, Romans 6:13, Philippians 3:9;
4. Peace—Isaiah 9:6 Prince; Luke 2:14 on earth; John 14:27 Jesus’ given; Ephesians 2:14 removed hostility; Ephesians 2:17 preached; Colossians 3:15 umpire; 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Lord of; James 3:18 harvest of
5. Faith –Matthew 9:29; Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38; Romans 12:3; Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6; Jude 1:20; Romans 10:17
6. https://www.museumreplicas.com/ancient_croesus_cyrus; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
7. His will—Romans 12:2, Ephesians 1:9, 4:23-34, 5:10, 17, Colossians 1:9, 3:10; James 1:5, 1 Corinthians 2:16
8. Satan fall--Luke 10:18; Spirit mind--Romans 8:27
9. Guarantee—2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:14
10. Ask anything—John 14:14, John 15:16, John 16:23