The Essence Of Spiritual Warfare

Sword

Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:

Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman

Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, he drew an interesting correlation between refuting false teaching and spiritual warfare.

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against 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 10:1-6 (ESV)

False teachers had infiltrated the church in Corinth with the express purpose of discrediting Paul and replacing the true Gospel with a counterfeit one. As a consequence, he saw the battle against their lies as spiritual warfare.  Notice verse 5, in which he speaks of destroying arguments and every lofty opinion. Implicit in that verse is the idea that the knowledge of God and obedience to Christ demolish the strongholds of false teaching.

Paul didn’t mean, however, that Christians must be  skilled in logic and rhetoric in order to bring down false teachers. In his previous letter to the Corinthians, you may remember, he told them that he refused to depend on skillful speech and persuasive arguments.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ~~1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)

Human wisdom doesn’t have the power to effect the salvation that transforms lives. According to Romans 1:16, the power of God lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 2 of our 1 Corinthians 2 passage underscores that point. What a contrast to the clever false teachers Paul referenced in 2 Corinthians!

We receive the Gospel initially through the Holy Spirit implanting God’s Word in us (James 1:21, 1 Peter 1:23).  As we mature in Christ, God’s Word becomes our weapon against the demonic influence of false teachers (Ephesians 6:17). Of course, the Word of God consists of pure doctrine. Doctrine that stands against all the perversions and distortions that false teachers level at us.

As false teaching proliferates in evangelical circles, Scripture defends us against the many demonic doctrines warring to distract us from pure devotion to Christ. Learn to use it well.

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