Spiritual Warfare (1): Understanding the Conflict with Evil

The conflict between light and darkness has been waging ever since Satan tried to usurp the throne of God before time began. As children of the light, we are warriors on the front lines of this spiritual battle. Since we live in the physical realm, it is easy to forget the nature of the battle we face every day. The enemy is very strong; his host of demons are active and persistent, but Scripture reminds us that the One Who is in us “is greater than he [Satan] who is in the world” (1John 4:4, ESV).

A Spiritual Conflict

Most of us have not been engaged in real physical combat, whereby we leave the comforts of home and country to engage in armed conflict with an enemy. But God reminds us in His Word that we are engaged in a spiritual conflict which requires the utmost diligence. To the believers in Corinth, Paul said, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh” (2Cor 10:3, ESV). And he told the Ephesian believers, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood …but against the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12, ESV). These verses remind us that, while we interact daily on a physical level with family, friends, neighbors, work associates, and strangers, we are also engaged in an unseen battle that rages. We need to give due diligence not to allow ourselves to think that our enemy is anyone but the devil. He would seek to pit us against one another and have us believe that we are each other’s enemy. This can easily happen in the home or in the local church. He would also like to enlist us to do his work, accusing and slandering other believers. May we wisely resist him and live as children of light.

Identifying the Enemy

It is vital to know who our enemy is. Throughout the Bible, we are presented with many names which describe the nature and activity of our enemy. The first mention of him is in Genesis 3, where he is described as the serpent, who was more crafty than any other beast of the field. In Revelation, he is described as “the great dragon…that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9, ESV). The word “devil” comes from the Greek verb that means “to slander” or “accuse.” In the very next verse he is called “the accuser of our brothers,” the one who “accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev 12:10, ESV). This slanderer, who accuses us before our God, is also called Satan, which means adversary or enemy, and he truly is an enemy of God and of God’s people.

Deception is the underpinning of everything Satan does. In speaking to the Jewish leaders, our Lord gives the most comprehensive description of Satan: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44, ESV).

Lying and deception are not just what Satan does, they flow from who he is, the deceiver and the father of lies. From these words of our Savior, we know that the devil is pure evil, through and through, and his purpose is to corrupt the truth.

In Genesis 3, we witness Satan’s first attack on the human race, as he slyly seeks to undermine the character and purposes of God. With his first words to Eve, “Did God actually say,” Satan causes her to doubt God’s truthfulness and goodness. He implies that God has lied to them and is preventing them from enjoying great blessing. Satan shifts Eve’s focus from God’s prohibition and its consequences to the forbidden pleasure which she will enjoy if she disobeys God. He twists her perspective until sin looks right and obedience looks wrong.

Since that first temptation, the enemy’s plan has not changed. The father of lies still seeks to make sin look good and obedience bad. In his hatred of all that is dear and precious to the heart of God, His Word, and His people, Satan tries to deceive us and cause us to doubt God’s character, His Word, and His purposes for us.

Power From Above

Not only is Satan working against us, trying to shape us into the mold of this present world, but our own sinful natures are prone to give in to evil. This is why it is so vital to keep our relationship with Christ fresh, vibrant, and real.

We must understand that this spiritual war is not between two gods. There is only one God. Satan may be very powerful, but he is not an equal to God. We who belong to God are no match for Satan in our own strength, but with the power of God at work within us, we can have victory. This is why Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10, ESV). We cannot defeat the devil by human means, intelligence, wisdom, or ingenuity. Our weapons are not “of the flesh” but “divine” (2Cor 10:4, ESV). Ultimately, Christ has already conquered Satan at the cross. Through his death and glorious resurrection, He has rendered him powerless. It was “through death” that He was able to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14, ESV).

Therefore, it is in Christ that we find our victory as we live out the reality of our salvation, being dead to the world and alive in Christ. Peter instructs us “Resist him [Satan], firm in your faith” (1Peter 5:9, ESV). It is all by faith, believing that Christ achieved the victory over Satan, and living out that victory each day in all the details of our lives. It is my desire that we may find our strength sourced in Christ, that we may draw fresh might from our nearness to Him, and that, in His power, we may render the enemy ineffective in our lives.