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What is Spiritual Warfare?



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Do angels and demons ever do battle? The Bible pictures warfare that is wages on a heavenly scale, but it does not supply many details other than to say that Michael and his angels fought against Satan and his angels (Revelation 12:7-9; compare Daniel 10:13, 20).

More important for our purposes is the spiritual struggle between humans and demons (Ephesians 6:11-12).

If we stand for the kingdom of God, we will be drawn into the war that exists between the two camps. Nevertheless, as we delve into the topic of spiritual warfare, let's strive to maintain a balanced perspective.

Question 62: What is Spiritual Warfare?
Spiritual warfare is sometimes defined as the invisible confrontation between the forces of God and the forces of the devil, the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of darkness.

Unlike earthly warfare, spiritual warfare involves fighting an invisible enemy (2 Kings 6:15-18). Donald Grey Barnhouse calls this the "invisible war."

Sometimes this battle brings about circumstances that can hurt people physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. In the New Testament, the forces of darkness knew that Paul was God's servant, and they attacked him (Acts 19:15, 2 Corinthians 11:23-12:9).

Although the New Testament does not speak directly to the experience, a number of people claim that demons have pestered them at night or have attacked them in the manny of a poltergeist (see answer 34). But focusing on such accounts can easily lead to sensationalizing spiritual warfare. It is not the devil's primary objective to cause us physical discomfort or to attack us at night. Instead we can assume that he primarily desires to keep unbelievers from placing their faith in Christ and to render believers powerless or completely undermine their faith, hoping that Christians will follow his example and turn away from God.

Too often we abuse the subject of spiritual warfare. Some look for demons in every struggle they experience. They spend their time rebuking demons in prayer, imagining themselves on the front lines of demonic attack. But it is important to remember that apart from the devil and his demons, we also have conflicts with our weak, sinful nature and the influence of fallen people in a fallen world, which is cause enough for the majority of our problems!

If we feel that we are struggling against an opponent that we cannot see, we must trust in the God of the Bible -- not our own spirituality, cleverness or war strategies -- for the victory (2 Corinthians 5:7). We should keep our minds focused on the things of God instead of speculating about the devil's next move (Philippians 4:8)
- Source: B.J. Oropeza, About Spiritual Warfare, from his book, 99 Answers to Questions About Angels, Demons & Spiritual Warfare, InterVarsity Press, Aug. 1997. Pages 1113-114. Note: Scripture references expanded by Apologetics Index.

We highly recommend this book for its balanced, level-headed and Biblical treatment of the topics it addresses.

About B.J. Oropeza

B. J. Oropeza, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in Biblical Studies in the School of Theology. Among many publications are his books, Jesus and Paul: Global Perspective in Honor of James D. G. Dunn (2009); Paul and Apostasy: Eschatology, Perseverance, Falling Away in the Corinthian Congregation (2000, 2007); and The Gospel According to Superheroes: Religion and Popular Culture (2005).

He is founder and chair of the Intertextuality in the New Testament Consultation of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and a member of the Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity series, which specializes in the socio-rhetorical method of biblical interpretation. Oropeza specializes in New Testament, Pauline theology, and Intertextual studies. [Source: Azusa Pacific University]

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This post was last updated: Jul. 11, 2010