Continuing the series on demon-battling, we consider the believer’s divine weapon.
As stated earlier, the battle against Satan is primarily a defensive one,1 yet there is an avenue for the Christian to attack. However, as Chuck Lowe cautions, “There is a battle to be fought, but our role is neither to win some spectacular victory, nor even to launch an all-out offensive. Our function is primarily, if not exclusively, defensive.”2
Paul exhorts the Ephesians, who have put on their armor, to take up “the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). These last two instruments of war constitute the final piece of the warriors equipment (i.e. the helm) and the offensive weapon. The sword spoken of here is a short sword, much like a dagger which was used to strike hard and fast at close range.3 The picture Paul paints is one where the battle is fought at close range with viciousness.
However, the battle is not ours to fight. Paul informs the saints of two offensive plans of attack. In both plans, God is the primary actor in the battle. First, they attack with the sword, which is God’s word and contains all his promises. Second, they attack by praying at all times in the Spirit. As Christians, we have the impenetrable armor of God and divine weapons of war.
This whole passage sounds off on a triumphal note. There is no hint that the believer who has put on the new man (Eph. 4:24) and is controlled by God’s spirit (Eph. 5:18) has to be anxious about Satan or demons controlling, or in someway taking them over.
Theologically, Satan, death and demonic powers have been subjected to Christ. Satan has been defeated at the cross. Hebrews 2:14 reads, “…through death [Christ] might destroy the one who has power over death, that is, the devil.” Not only did Christ destroy Satan and death, but he has delivered those Satan enslaved through fear of death (15). Furthermore, through the cross, Christ, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). The rulers and authorities who war against us (Eph. 6:12) have been defeated (cf. 1 Pet. 3:19-21).
We have a divine preview of the enemy, divine armor and divine weapons. Our armor is God’s armor (Eph. 4:24; Eph. 5:1) and our weapons are spiritual. Christ has won the victory for us. Thus, our responsibility is to submit to Christ and be faithful to him as he brings about his kingdom.
Spiritual warfare should concern the life of every true believer because every true believer is in engaged in this war. To deny this reality or to ignore this truth sets one up for tragic consequences. As believers we must be mindful that Satan and demons exist and they are out to harm Christians. However, this should be no cause for worry to the faithful believer because God has provided detailed intelligence of the enemies’ plans, and his given us his own armor and weapons. More than that, God promises to fight to battle for us, having secured ultimate victory at the cross.
There are a number of areas where understanding spiritual warfare translates into some practical steps and applications to a believer’s life.
1. Believers need to be cautious but not anxious about demonic powers. In my years as a believer, I have experienced the anxiety of Christians who think (a) that they are possessed, (b) that they are under siege by demons, and (c) that demonic powers are to blame for all their sin. True believers have both God’s armor and His weapons of warfare. No true Christian can be terrorized by a demon if he put on his armor. The failure of some Christians to overcome demonic influence can only be attributed to not being prepared. They put down the armor, as it were, and open themselves up to sin. Another common failure is to ignore the weapons of war. Using God’s word and prayer are both key to this battle4
2. Believers need to know how to use the weapons of warfare. As noted above, we should not go demon hunting by using the weapons God provides, since He is the one who is active in battle. Instead, a simple yielding of oneself to God’s Spirit, prayer and the use of God’s word are required. God is the warrior who fights on the saint’s behalf.
3. Believers are called to stand firm. Either focusing on the offensive or retreating into a corner because of fear fails to meet the biblical expectation. Scripture exhorts believers to “stand firm” ready for battle. Speaking of Ephesians 6, David Powlison explains,
Though the classic mode of spiritual warfare portrayed in this passage we learn how to “stand” and wage successful warfare. The enemy lies at our feet defeated. When we live by faith and love we stand on the battlefield. This does not mean, however, that a Christian is invulnerable or insulated to dark persuasions. If that were true, Scripture would not need to warn us of the nature of our battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.5
We are to be faithful even in the midst of a viscous attack. However, when we stand firm using the resources provided for us, victory is assured. The Apostle Paul summed it up well, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
1 Contrast Clinton E. Arnold, who spends a significant portion of his book on the offensive strategy of Christians against Satan. He believes that Christians can be possessed and that Christians can cast out demons. See 3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 125-8.
2 Chuck Lowe, Territorial Spirits and World Evangelism? (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 1998), 60.
3 Hoehner, Ephesians, 851-2.
4 As far as prayer being key to this battle, see James E. Rosscup, “The Importance of Prayer in Ephesians,” MSJ 6, No.1 (Spring 1995): 57-74.
5 David Powlison, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 114.