The Christian and Spiritual warfare today
Updated: Jun 20, 2020
An article by Ro Mody.
In the West our culture is generally rationalistic and anti-supernatural in worldview. We attribute causes and events, like the pandemic, to scientific natural causes. So, we say that the pandemic is caused by the Coronavirus, and the solution must be social distancing, good hygiene, and finding a vaccine. But in many cultures the general world view is different: the pandemic is ultimately caused by evil spirits who infect people with the virus, and the solution is spells, charms, and magic to ward off the evil spirits who cause the disease.
As Christians, we want to be guided neither by an anti-supernatural worldview nor by religious superstition, but by the Scriptures, the written Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) So, what does the Bible have to say about both natural and supernatural world?
First, we must learn that our ultimate enemy is spiritual, not human. It is here that Paul reminds us, in the classic passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-20, that we are not only opposed by human beings but, ultimately by dark supernatural powers: 'For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.' (Eph 6:12.)
That means that even those who persecute Christians and are opposed to the Gospel are actually controlled by satanic forces. It is these dark powers (powers and principalities, demons, and evil spirits) that dominate natural structures and deceive human beings (Revelation 13-14.) Does that then mean that we Christians ought to live in fear of powerful malevolent spiritual forces or expect extraordinary miracles to ward off evil? No, because of Christ’s victorious power, which brings us to our second point.
We must learn that Christ has defeated evil. So, Paul in Colossians stresses that conversion means that God has transferred us from the powers of darkness to Christ’s dominion: 'For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.' (Col 1:13) Even more wonderful, Christ has defeated the evil powers on the cross, since he paid the price for the debt of sin 'which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross'. (Col 2:14-15)
That means we can have assurance of Christ’s triumph over evil powers 'triumphing over them by the cross'. (cf. Eph 1:9-10.) But Christ has not only redeemed us from evil, he has empowered us to fight against evil powers, which brings us to our third point.
We must learn to fight spiritually through a mature faith in Christ. We need to return to the whole armour of God passage in Ephesians 6:10-20. Many apply the passage to means that we need to be focused in exorcisms, or special prayer marches, or mapping territorial spirits, trying to win against Satan, or such like, forgetting that Christ has already won and empowered us. In fact, the passage is quite straight forward; what we need is faith and godliness to withstand Satan’s attack. So the armour of God in Ephesians 6:14-18 is represented first by the 'belt of truth', which is sound doctrine and the 'breastplate of righteousness' (v.14), which is a godly lifestyle; the 'shield of faith' (v.16), which is trust in Christ’s saving Lordship (Eph 2:8). The 'sword of the Spirit' which is the Word of God; (Eph 6:17), and prayer 'in the Spirit' which is prayer directed to God for power. (Eph 3:14-21.)
What it means for us is that real spiritual warfare is the normal Christian life: if we are repenting of sin, resisting temptation (like Satan-inspired anger Eph 4:26-27), killing sin, growing in Christlikeness, reading our bibles, praying, and listening to sound doctrine in a Christian fellowship, then we will see spiritual victory against spiritual evil.
Let then heed Paul’s comforting words about spiritual warfare: 'Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.' (Eph 6:10)
Rev. Dr. Rohintan (Ro) K Mody is a Lecturer in New Testament at the Evangelical Theological College of Asia. You can find his book Empty and Evil: The worship of other faiths in Corinthians 8-10 and today here.