I have been hearing a lot about being a warrior lately: spiritual warfare is a term all believers are familiar with. Two of the principals of spiritual warfare that we know from Scripture are that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12) and “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…”(2 Cor 10: 3-4) The text from Ephesians introduces the passage on the armour of God and the need to “stand against the wiles of the devil,” and the passage in the letter to the Corinthians is written in a context of matters pertaining to Church discipline. But I think it’s appropriate that we look beyond these contexts to consider some principles behind the matter of spiritual warfare. In particular, what are “carnal” weapons, and what are the weapons that are “mighty in God?” Or to put it differently, when are we fighting our enemy in the flesh, and when are we fighting in the Spirit?
The place of peace
The most important aspect of any battle is not the clamour of the fight, but the peace that is won. When Christ came as an infant, the angels announced peace on Earth. Jesus promised us “peace, not as the world gives.“ (John 14:27) The psalmist exhorted us “to seek peace and pursue it,“ (Ps 34:14) and Paul urged the Romans “pursue those things that make for peace.” (Romans 14:19) As has often been said, we may well do battle with principalities and powers in the heavenly realms, but Jesus has already won the war at Calvary. So one thing at least is obvious from these scriptures: peace is already ours, and so we carry it into our battles with us. This peace is neither worldly nor carnal, but is brought to us from Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Our peace is actually one of our main weapons of spiritual warfare, and all the protective items of the Ephesians six armour of God help us to keep it in our hearts. Indeed, if we are not operating out of the place of peace, we are not moving in the victory Jesus has won for us, and we are not going to see our enemies vanquished and our giants fall.
Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath,“ and James writes: “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God “ (James 1:20) I have referred to this scripture elsewhere, and pointed out that the Greek word “orge,” translated as “wrath,“ is not limited to anger but to any uncontrolled outburst of passion. Jesus cast out demons “with a word,“ not by shouting at them. This is how He is described prophetically by Isaiah:
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” (Isaiah 42: 1-4)
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. Yet I’ve been to a couple of conferences recently where the voices of some of the speakers could definitely “be heard in the street.” I’ve certainly done my share of shouting at demons and generally raising my voice, as if my carnal loudness, or even any display of human emotion, could somehow demolish a spiritual stronghold. We do need to use spiritual gifts to identify the enemies that we are fighting against, but to go on and win the battles we need to fight in the same spirit as the Christ of Isaiah 42, not with raised fists and human “orge”. We cannot fight Goliath with the armour of Saul. It’s not by might, nor by power.
Building the church
“Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7)
Jesus said that he would build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The increase of His government and peace will come as He builds His church. Paul writes “let us pursue the things which make for peace, and by which one may build up another.” (Romans 14:19). So if Jesus is going to build His church through us, the spiritual weapons of our warfare must be the ones Jesus used. He said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” The last lesson of the Jesus Christ 3-year Discipleship Training Programme was not “How to attain Third Heaven Revelation,” but “How to wash each others’ feet;” not “How to build your ministry,” but “How to build up one another.” These are the weapons of warfare that are mighty in God: the peace and the humility of Jesus, a servant heart, and love for one another. With them we work with the Holy Spirit to build the church in the face of the gates of hell.
The Battle Plan
I could go on. We fight the enemy of lack by giving: “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” Luke 6:38) We fight the enemy of destructive emotions with kindness and tender hearts: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4: 31-32) In fact Jesus laid out the battle plan for His warriors when He gave us the Sermon on the Mount, contrasting the light of Heaven against the darkness of the world. And end-time revival will be led by those whose feet stand securely on this Mount and no other, because it is when the Light of Life is seen burning in our hearts that the darkness is pushed back and ground is taken for the Kingdom of God.
The prayer of a fruitful apostle
I’ll end with a prayer. Not mine, but from someone who was one of the greatest apostles of the church age, although he never identified himself by his fivefold ministry title. Christianity had become a ruin of corruption, and Jesus called a young man from a wealthy family to turn away from the life of luxury he had known and rebuild His church. The young man committed himself to the call and gave his life to preaching the gospel and establishing communities of believers. The weapons of his warfare were not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. His name was Francis of Assisi.
This was his prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.