How I wish I had a nickel for every sermon I’ve heard on spiritual warfare! I’d be able to afford an apartment on Beacon Hill in Boston! Regrettably, that’s about all most of those sermons would have been worth, since their preachers spent most of the time making confusing allegories explaining how to use the various pieces of armor instead of emphasizing the importance of depending on the Lord Jesus Christ and His power.
From there, they’d typically launch on lengthy discourses on “taking authority” over Satan and his demons. Some taught that we should command them to identify themselves (as if a demon would answer truthfully), so that we could then “pray against” the “‘strongholds” they hold over us. (For example, I underwent “deliverance” from a “spirit of anger.”) Others taught that evil spirits attach themselves to specific geographic locations, and that we needed to “bind” those specific spirits in order to successfully evangelize an area. And in all cases, we absolutely had to be educated on exactly how to wield each piece of spiritual armor against Satanic forces.
Yet the Bible presents spiritual warfare as something Christians do primarily by living in accordance with the clear teaching of Scripture.To show you what I mean, let’s go back to Ephesians 6.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish 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 praying 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, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. ~~Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV)
You may think it odd that I included verses 18b-20 in the above quotation. After all, most people who preach or teach on spiritual warfare generally stop at verse 18a. But to properly understand this passage (or, for that matter, any passage of God’s Word), we must examine it in context. And these closing verses bring the warfare back to the decidedly mundane task of praying for Paul’s evangelistic efforts.
Paul wrote nowhere about “taking authority” over the enemy, determining which demonic spirit holds “dominion” over a city, or techniques for using each piece of the armor of God. Rather, the general idea is being clothed in Christ (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10). As we appropriate truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith and salvation by reading, studying and applying God’s Word, we have victory over demonic forces.
Don’t ignore the fact that Satan exists, but don’t make spiritual warfare more complicated than it actually is. We best thwart the enemy as we submit to God (James 4:7). Admittedly, that humble day-to-day obedience lacks the excitement of rebuking Satan or going through “deliverance” sessions. But activities of that sort, besides only being assigned to specific men during the apostolic era, tends to appeal to human pride rather than keeping our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. Please remember that He alone conquers Satan. We enjoy victory only by remaining in Him.