3 Reflections on Spiritual Warfare

This week we launched a new series on spiritual warfare. Yesterday Jonathan kicked it off with a message on “How To Engage in Spiritual Warfare.”(Oct. 6, 2019) Today, I’d like to make some personal reflections on the subject. The first reflection is what Scriptures are there. Second is information gleaned from extra scriptural sources. The final reflection is experiences from church history.

A quick search for “Bible Verses About Spiritual Warfare” will turn up dozens of references. Yet on closer examination, many passages aren’t about spiritual warfare. It is common in Bible interpretation to assign meaning to verses devoid of context. So it is important to look at Spiritual Warfare with context in mind when looking at verses. From there, conclusions can be made.

What Scripture Are About Spiritual Warfare?

There aren’t many scriptures addressing spiritual warfare exclusively. Most of the passages above relate to faithfulness to God and character development. However, there are passages about spiritual warfare. The New Testament has the most. Old Testament passages are pretty sparse.

In the Old Testament, there is very little mention of the supernatural world. There are some in the prophets, especially the later ones like Daniel. From my reading of the Old Testament, aside from Daniel, some of 1 Chronicles, and Job, there isn’t much about spiritual warfare.

Some say Isaiah 14:12 and Ezekiel 28:14-18 refer to Satan. The context doesn’t allow for that. They reference the kings of Babylon and Tyre. Equating these kings to the devil tetters on denying Israel’s historical threat. This treats historicity as a metaphor for the supernatural. This feels like an attempt to make clearly historical references relevant to modern readers. 

Initially, early Church Fathers (Origen) “compared” the pride of the devil to that of these kings. Even Martin Luther and John Calvin rejected an equation between the devil and “O Morning Star.”

What we do have are the following chapters:

  • Matthew 16:18-20 “keys to Kingdom, gates of Hades (Death)
  • Luke 10:18-20 “Satan fall like lightning”
  • 2 Cor 10:3-5 “Weapons are not of this world”
  • 2 Cor 11:14 “Angel of Light”
  • Eph. 6 “Armor of God”
  • Heb. 2:14 “Satan Hold Power of Death”
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9 “Devil = a roaring lion”
  • James 2:19 “Demons believe and trembler”
  • James 4:7 “Resist the devil”
  • Revelation

Extra-Scriptural Sources

A lot of the information we get on the supernatural comes from outside sources that someone connects with Bible passages. Equating the origin of demons with the Nephilim in Genesis 6 is a great example. We do have a connection with Jude’s epistle. Yet even Jude was referencing the non-canonical 1 Enoch. This is a huge discussion we can’t address here.

Our entire exposure to “angelology” and “demonology” does not come from scripture. Most of it has been compiled by a 5th century mystic named Pseudo-Dionysius. The only terms we see in the bible are:

  • Malach/angelos: messengers
  • Cherub: mighty warriors: Guarding Garden, sculptured on ark of covenant, 4 living creatures in Ezekiel, possibly Rev. 4-6
  • Seraphim: burning ones, Ezekiel’s “wheel within a wheel” Possibly conflated with Rev 4-6.
  • Satan: “The Evil One, Devil.”
  • Demons
  • Principalities and Powers

That last set is usually interpreted as supernatural or preternatural beings serving Satan. As far as definitive explanations, one can’t really be made. Jesus conquered them. He made them a spectacle. They cannot separate us from God’s love. Anything beyond that is either guesswork or from a non-biblical source.

The belief that “naming a demon” is the key to casting it out is part of ancient Jewish and pagan magical rituals. There is only one instance where Jesus inquires the name of a demon–the Gerasene Demoniac.

Scripture is clear that we have authority over anything rebelling against God’s kingdom. It does not tell us much about the inner workings of supernatural society.

Experience From History

Aside from ancient pagan practices, some knowledge about spiritual warfare is based on believers’ experiences throughout church history. Many Christian scholars dismiss accounts of the supernatural outside the Bible. Several reports about Christians in spiritual warfare abound. Many examples can be linked to biblical similarities, others cannot.

A great example of ancient Christian spiritual warfare can be found in Peter Brown’s “The Cult of the Saints.” Some of the ideas and accounts may feel a bit “too Catholic” for many Protestants, but it is still worth the read. The Desert Fathers is another good example of spiritual warfare. The Desert Fathers came about as Christianity hit mainstream and worldliness crept in. Desert Fathers entered the wilderness to escape the world. As one author says, “They went into the wilderness to confront and conquer the devil.”

History is replete with exorcisms, spiritual cleansings, consecration of homes, baby dedications, and more. We can even learn from power encounters between Christianity and Animist cultures. Charles Kraft’s works are pretty good guides for spiritual warfare. It is good to be cautious about what books to read. Finding Christ-centered sources is important when dealing with spiritual warfare. There are plenty of sources that delve into occultic practices claiming to be Christian. Dedication to the constraints of Scripture is always the wisest bet. For most instances, holy living, Jesus’ name, repentance, and forgiveness is enough for a believer. Disruptions in those areas tend to be the starting point for spiritual warfare.

Conclusion

Spiritual warfare is a hot topic in Christianity. It allows an opportunity to explore the supernatural realm. Unfortunately, there is a lot of mis-information and superstitious beliefs accompanying it. Christian personalities use the category as a marketing strategy, making themselves spiritual warfare authorities. 

I can share what I do with spiritual warfare. I may research parts of it, but immediately run it through my knowledge of Scripture and God’s character. I also stay leary of hyper-symbolism, like people with books and charts for dream interpretation or a spiritual meaning to mundane physical actions. I don’t go gunning for a fight with demons, but when they cross me, my Christ-like character helps take care of business. I stand my ground on the rock of Jesus.

Of course these reflections are far from universally accepted. As a teacher, I say my authority begins and ends with Scripture. I may have thoughts and theories. I will not, however, try to establish as fact what can only be shown to be conjecture.

Thank you for reading this week’s Pastor Blog post. I hope it has helped you better experience our Lord’s

Presence. Love. Power.



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