“Father, thank You for today. We’re grateful for Your Word that You’ve allowed to be recorded over a period of 1500 years. You’ve done a lot to encapsulate Your truth for us, so the least we can do is give ourselves to Your Word, study it, and try to learn what it says. In that vein, I pray You will be with us during Sunday school and in the main service that follows so we can learn the things You’d have for us in Your Word.
We’re claiming Your promise this morning that Your Word equips us not for some good works but for every good work. We ask that the Holy Spirit would be illuminating Your truth today as it’s taught, and I pray that we would leave here different people—changed people—having understood in a better way Your mind on things.
We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.”
And God’s people said, “Amen.”
Locate Luke 22:31-32. We’re continuing our study on angelology. Having spoken of the good angels and Satan we’re now in a section dealing with demons. We’ve looked at the existence of demons; they’re clearly spoken of in the Old Testament and New.
We’ve looked at the origin of demons. The best guess is they are the one third of the angels that fell with Lucifer.
We’ve seen that demons have the elements of personhood—although they are not human beings, obviously—they’re real personalities.
We’ve looked at the characteristics of demons, the different really vile terms that the Bible uses to describe them.
We’ve seen they’re much more powerful than us in every way, but obviously they’re not as powerful as God is.
Then we took a look at their works and some of the things that they do, including allowing people to traffic in what is called the occult.
From there we moved into the subject of demon possession. I made a lot of comments about demon possession and even looked at the characteristics of demon possessed people—last week I think it was—making the case that a Christian cannot be demon possessed. Although a Christian can be oppressed or influenced by the realm of demons.
We’re at the last part of this material on demonology where we’re looking at the defense. If demons and Satan are really as powerful as the Bible presents them, how do we defend ourselves?
The first thing to understand is that when it comes to defending ourselves in the area of spiritual warfare, God is already doing stuff. Even before we do our part—which we’ll talk about—God is already doing things to protect us, which I’m very grateful for, aren’t you?
So, what is God doing? For one thing He’s already put a restraint on Satan. We know that from early Job. Job 1:10 was Satan’s complaint to God concerning Job when God was bragging about Job to Satan. Be careful when God starts bragging about you! If God is ever bragging about me, I would like Him to not do it in the presence of Satan!
“Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge [that’s a very important word] about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.’ ” (Job 1:9-10)
Satan could not do what he wanted to do to Job, because God had placed a hedge of protection around Job’s life. And I don’t see how that’s changed for us today because we obviously wouldn’t even be meeting here given the power of Satan and his hatred for what we’re doing here. So there obviously must be some kind of protection that God is doing. Satan can’t just do whatever he wants to us.
One of the things that inhibits Satan is the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7. This is the passage that tells us that Satan—yes, he’s the ruler of this world, but not in an absolute sense. There are handcuffs on Satan as I speak.
Beyond divine restraint, God is doing something else for us that I’m very, very grateful for. He’s interceding for us—or He’s praying for us. It always makes you feel good when you know you’re going into a difficult situation but you’ve got a person or two praying for you! That’s always comforting.
And yet, what the Bible tells us is Jesus and the Holy Spirit—two Members of the Trinity—are praying for us around the clock. Are you happy about that? That makes me very happy! And you see this mindset in Christ even during His earthly ministry in Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat…” Kind of the accusation that Satan brought up to God concerning Job.
Then, in verse 32 Jesus tells Peter, “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” In other words, “I’m praying for you throughout this ordeal that you’re about to go through. I’m praying that you come out of it, and you’re going to be better for it because you’re going to be a better minister—or a better strengthener—of your brothers because of it.”
Peter went through what he went through, survived it, and actually became a better person for it because of the prayer life of his Savior for him. Three decades later when Peter wrote 1 Peter, he would say, concerning us, that we are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5)
So, as we’re on our way to our inheritance, we are currently being protected by the power of God. Peter would know something about that, having received in Luke 22 this information from Jesus that he was going into a trial, and yet the Lord was praying for him. So, not only is the Lord acting as a restraint against Satan, He is interceding for us as we go through difficulties in life.
You might want to flip over to John 17:15. Jesus, in what is called the Upper Room Discourse, prayed what really is the Lord’s Prayer. Most people mislabel the Matthew 6 prayer as the Lord’s Prayer, and that really isn’t the Lord’s Prayer. It couldn’t be the Lord’s Prayer because there’s a provision in it that says, “Forgive us of our sins.” Jesus wouldn’t have prayed that for Himself; He was instructing the disciples to pray.
If you really want the Lord’s Prayer, it’s in the Upper Room right near the end of His life prior to His crucifixion in the Passion Week. It’s fascinating to work through this! We’ve done it when we studied John’s Gospel in this church. He says, in John 17:15, as He’s praying to the Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world [that would be us—the future church], but to keep them from the evil one.”
Jesus prayed for Peter, and there He’s praying for His future church just before His death. Then Jesus died, He rose from the dead, and He ascended back to the right hand of the Father. So, what’s He doing at the right hand of the Father? Just kind of sitting around and doesn’t have anything to do, right? No. He’s entered into His High Priestly ministry.
He’s not functioning as Davidic King, but He is functioning as High Priest. Not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of whom? Melchizedek. If you want a good book to study on that subject, it would be the Book of Hebrews. I think one of our ladies’ classes is currently going through the Book of Hebrews.
One of the things Jesus is doing in that High Priestly ministry is He’s involved in a ministry of intercession. Let’s look at Hebrews 7 for a minute. Notice one of the many things Jesus Christ is doing currently—right now as I speak.
We know a lot about what He did 2000 years ago. We know a lot about what He will do when He comes back. What we’re blinded to, for whatever reason… Most systematic theologies (unless they’re dispensational theologies) don’t even go into this. What is He doing right now, which is what we call His present session? He’s functioning as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
One of the things He’s doing is intercession. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives…” Now, if someone lives for something, that means it’s the most important thing in their life.
You’ve got a lot of people who live for weekends, right? If someone says, “I live for weekends,” then the weekend is the most important thing in their life! And here we learn what Jesus lives to do! What’s the most important thing in His life now at the Father’s right hand?
It says, “since He always.” Not sometimes! This is what makes His priesthood different than Aaron’s. The Aaronic priests had to retire at a certain age. The Aaronic priests would have to go to sleep to recharge the battery, but Jesus doesn’t have to do any of those things.
He doesn’t have to retire, He doesn’t have to go to sleep, so He’s available around the clock to do the very thing that He lives to do! And what He lives to do is right there in Hebrews 7:25, “…since He always lives to make intercession for them.” “Them” is us—members of the church.
What is intercession? When you intercede for somebody, you’re praying essentially to God the Father on behalf of a third-party. That’s what intercessory prayer is. Here we learn that this is part of Christ’s High Priestly ministry, it’s the very thing that He lives to do, and He always does it! If that doesn’t communicate divine restraint on Satan’s activities, I don’t really know what will.
Now let’s go to Romans 8:34, “who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God [which is His ministry that we just described], who also [does what?] intercedes [for whom] for us.”
You take Hebrews 7:25, you put it right next to Romans 8:34, and you learn that Jesus is doing something right now called divine intercession. And it’s not just the Son—God the Son—Who is doing this! When you go to over to Romans 8:26-27, what you learn is that there’s an entirely different member of the Trinity interceding for us also.
Notice what it says in Romans 8:26-27. “In the same way the Spirit also…” Also relative to what? Relative to what Jesus is doing in verse 34. “…helps our weaknesses…” Boy, we’ve got a lot of weaknesses, don’t we? So there’s someone Who is helping us in the midst of our weaknesses.
“…for we do not know how to pray as we should…” You think of all of the things going on in the spiritual realm—all of the methods of Satan—all of the attacks that come against us! As a human being I have no way of navigating my way through any of that! I don’t even know how to pray for myself most of the time, but Someone helps!
It says, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints…” Who are the saints? That’s us!
As J. Vernon McGee says, “You’re either a saint or you’re an ain’t!” If you’re in Christ, you’re a saint because the positional righteousness of Jesus has been transferred to us at the point of faith. So the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to what I want Him to do for me, right? No! It doesn’t say that! End of verse 27, according to Whom? “…according to the will of God.”
This is a fascinating discourse on Trinitarianism—where we have one God. We believe in monotheism, but that one God has expressed Himself in three personages—God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. They all share in the essence of deity; but at the same time the Son is completely unique in His Son-ness, the Spirit is completely unique in His Spirit-ness, and the Father is completely unique in His Father-ness. It’s the mystery of the Trinity!
Here we learn that two Members of the Trinity—first the Son and the second Member of the Trinity (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27)—are both involved in the active ministry of intercession—petitioning God the Father on behalf of a third party. Who is that third party? It’s little ol’ me—and little ol’ you! This is just fascinating information the Bible has given us concerning the restraint that God is already providing in our lives.
God, right now, is doing two things to protect us from Satan even before we do anything to protect ourselves. We have the hedge of protection which cannot be lowered without His divine sovereignty. And then we have this valuable ministry of intercession by two Members of the Trinity as They intercede for us according to the will of God to God the Father. So I feel pretty safe! We’ve got a pretty good security team at this church, but not this good!
Having said all that, let’s move away from what God is already doing for us in the area of spiritual warfare to what we should do for ourselves. Just because God is already doing for us to protect us in the midst of spiritual warfare doesn’t mean I just sit, soak, and sour. I don’t fold my hands, sit down, and say, “God’s doing His thing; I’m just going to do whatever I want!” That’s not what the Bible teaches either! The Bible does teach, through our own behavior, we can open the door to satanic activity.
So, what am I supposed to do? There are at least five things that we are supposed to do. The first of which is to understand something that most spiritual warfare models, books, or teachings don’t really communicate well, in my opinion, because many of them come from a hyper charismatic background where they’re not clear on the dispensations of the Bible. So you get a lot of teaching about, “We’ve got to bind Satan. We’ve got to cast Satan out of here. We’ve got to get together and pray down the territorial spirits over Houston. Because, after all, Houston has the biggest Planned Parenthood! So, as Christian leaders, if we would all get together and we would pray down that territorial spirit, abortion would disappear in Houston! We’ve got to give the devil a black eye and run him out of town!”
Jack Hayford, The Church on The Way, who has a lot of good things to say, was doing all of this stuff in the 80s and the 90s—praying down territorial spirits over Los Angeles. I have a feeling that those territorial spirits haven’t moved one millimeter in Los Angeles when you look at the state of Los Angeles today. Ironically, Los Angeles, “the city of the angels,” is not exactly the most angelic place on planet Earth.
If you are a dispensationalist, you understand that we’re in the Church Age and we’re in a time period where Satan is the prince and power of the world, with limitations as we have described. So we don’t waste our time binding Satan, yelling at Satan, screaming at Satan. We don’t waste our time praying down territorial spirits over Houston or Sugar Land. We understand that we are primarily on defense.
Offense takes place when Jesus comes back and establishes His Kingdom. Jesus comes back and establishes His Kingdom at the end of the Tribulation period—which is not now! If you’re confused on the Millennium, you’ll get confused in spiritual warfare.
Premillennialism is the way we teach it here. We’re teaching the Book of Revelation, which goes perfectly with what I’m saying. When Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom at the end of the Tribulation period, then and only then will Satan be bound. And after the thousand years runs its course, as we’ve studied, Satan is kept around for pedagogical reasons. And then finally Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
So, Satan’s defeat has seven steps. First, he’s evicted out of heaven (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28); we’ve studied those passages. Then there’s the pronouncement given to him in Eden that there is coming One, the Seed of the woman—Jesus—Who’s going to crush his head.
And then Satan is running a genetic experiment prior to the flood that failed. Now you say, “What’s that all about?” I’m going to have more to say about that than you’ll want to know a couple of weeks down the road.
Satan is defeated at the Cross. But it’s not until the midpoint of the Tribulation period that he permanently loses access to heaven, because he can still go into heaven to accuse and to communicate. He just can’t go into heaven to worship and serve as he once was able to do as a high-ranking cherub.
Then, after the Tribulation period runs its course, Jesus will establish His Kingdom. Then, at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan will be bound. And at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, he’ll be cast into the Lake of Fire.
We are still waiting for events six and seven to happen. In fact, we’re actually waiting for events five, six, and seven to happen. We’re living in between event four and event five in the progressive defeat of Satan.
We are not in the Kingdom now; we are in the Church Age. Satan is a defeated foe, but his sentence hasn’t been imposed. Therefore, it’s a complete waste of time to try to do something to Satan (like binding him, etc.) that only Jesus can and will do when He establishes His Kingdom.
But in the interim, as we’re waiting for those things to happen, God has left us with defenses. One of those defenses is simply to understand that we’re on defense, because Revelation 11:15 hasn’t been fulfilled yet. The Kingdom of this world has not become The Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. The events of the Book of Revelation bring that to pass, but we’re living in a time period before those events have taken place.
That’s why I like to make a big deal—and I won’t walk through every single one of these—about the parallels between the Book of Exodus and the various judgments in the Book of Revelation. There is no doubt that when you read the Book of Revelation it sounds an awful lot like the Book of Exodus—sores, rivers to blood, darkness, frogs, hail, etc. You’ll find those in the various bowl judgments in Revelation and in the various ten plagues in the Book of Exodus.
I think the reason the Spirit of God, when He inspired the Book of Revelation, gave us these parallels is to show us something here. That just as the ten plagues liberated Israel from 400 years of Egyptian bondage, the 21 judgments in the Book of Revelation are liberating the entire planet from the grip that it’s been under (the satanic dominion) ever since the Fall in Eden. And these judgments haven’t taken place yet!
We’re living in a time period where—unless God puts a hedge of protection around, intercedes, etc.—we’re living in Satan’s heyday. We’re living almost at the zenith, if you will, of his power. As I speak, he is still the prince of this world, the god of this age, the prince and power of the air, the one that we wrestle with. He’s the one who roams about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 John 5:19 says, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
So, the very first thing to understand, when dealing with spiritual warfare, is you have to understand our defensive posture. We are not on offense; we are on defense! When you understand that, it gets rid of all of the silly talk about screaming at Satan, yelling at Satan, talking to Satan, giving Satan a black eye, running him out of town, binding Satan, praying down territorial spirits over your city. There are no instructions in the Epistles to do anything like that!
In fact, in Jude 9 you read something that Michael himself would not even do relative to Satan. “But Michael the archangel…” Michael is not just an angel—he’s an archangel. “…when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment [or accusation], but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ”
Not even Michael himself as an angel (and an archangel) wanted to get into any conversation with Satan or to pronounce any railing accusation against Satan. He simply put Satan in God’s hands. If our power is less than Michael’s (which it obviously is) how much more should we be following that mindset and wait on Jesus Himself to bind Satan and ultimately cast him into the Lake of Fire?
In fact, if you’re in a ministry or following a ministry which is engaging in all of this aggressive behavior against Satan, that ministry has more in common with false teachers than it does the truth! Where am I getting this from? I’m getting it from 2 Peter 2:10-11, “and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties…” Reviling or slandering Satan is offensive activity against Satan—talking to Satan, yelling at Satan, screaming at Satan, binding Satan, etc.
Verse 11, “whereas angels who are greater in might and power [like Michael, as we just read in Jude] do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” Peter, here in chapter 2, is describing false teachers and how they act. So, if you’re doing all of this offensive activity against Satan, then your ministry has more to do with a false teacher than it does someone who understands the true nature of spiritual warfare.
We’re not to bring railing accusations against Satan and his minions. We have no biblical basis for that. Even some of the songs we sing? We used to sing a song in church when I was a kid. It went something like, “If the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack,” those kinds of things. They’re very cute because the kids are singing, but you wonder how biblically informed that kind of a song is. To me, that kind of a song goes directly against what you read about in Jude and 2 Peter 2:10-11.
I have no idea why people would want to talk to Satan anyway! Isn’t that what got the human race into all the trouble it got into with Eve in Genesis 3:2? I read through Genesis 3—the Fall of man—and I usually can’t get beyond verse 2! “The woman said to the serpent…” I always wonder why she’s talking to him! Why is she even talking to him? Think of the trouble that could be spared if our forebears did not get into conversations with Satan.
There’s a lot of confusion today on the issue of spiritual warfare for the simple reason that people don’t understand the doctrine of dispensations. I get no renumeration for this plug at all; I just happen to feel it’s the best book out there on the subject. It’s called Spiritual Warfare by Robert Dean and Thomas Ice. It’s gone through three titles; I think the original title was called A Holy Rebellion.
Why is it called a holy rebellion? Because if you understand spiritual warfare, you’re rebelling against—in a holy sense—your three enemies. What are those three enemies? The world, the flesh, and the devil. The original title was A Holy Rebellion: Strategy for Spiritual Warfare. Then the same content was republished under a new title—I like this title too—Overrun by Demons: The Church’s New Preoccupation With the Demonic. Now it just has this third title, Spiritual Warfare.
There are a lot of spiritual warfare books out there, and I’ve read a lot of them. Of all of them, I am very drawn to this book because it’s the most balanced. Number one, it’s dispensational so it doesn’t get you into all these activities—binding Satan, etc.
Number two, it’s biblically-based. Because so many spiritual warfare books you read? Suddenly the author will start talking about his counseling experiences. And it’s all interesting reading, but now you’re getting into not what the Bible says; you’re getting into personal experiences. This book doesn’t do that—it sticks to the Scripture.
The third reason I like it is that it has a high view of the sufficiency of the Scripture. It basically teaches the idea that what God has given us to defend ourselves in the area of spiritual warfare— one of those things is His written Word—is enough or is sufficient!
One of the things that we have in spiritual warfare is the shield of faith by which we can extinguish—not some but—all the fiery darts of the wicked one. You don’t need to feel like, “Gosh, what God has given me in spiritual warfare isn’t quite enough. I’ve got to get in touch with some prophet,” or “I’ve got to get in touch with modern-day psychology,” or “I’ve got to get in touch with this or that.” The reality is that God knows our predicament, and He’s given us everything we need for all matters of faith and practice—including how we handle spiritual warfare.
So, the very first thing we do to defend ourselves against Satan is we have to understand that we are defensive in posture, because we are living in the devil’s world. And that cannot change. It doesn’t matter how many good people you elect to office. And I’m in favor of doing that, by the way!
But that’s not going to change! I mean, if Nancy Pelosi gets voted out of power, it’s still the devil’s world. Amen? I didn’t get much of a reaction on that one! It doesn’t matter what party controls the White House; it’s still the devil’s world! Now, in a sense it does matter what party controls the White House—you ought to be concerned about that—but that’s not the change of binding Satan that will be ushered in when Jesus comes back.
This is why we are called ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). If I am America’s Ambassador to Iran—how would you like that job right now? —I am representing American values on Iranian soil. I’m not on Iranian soil to do regime change. (Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad idea when you look at what’s going on in Iran right now.) But I’m there to represent America on hostile territory.
That’s why you’re called an ambassador: you’re representing Kingdom values which are going to come one day in the devil’s world. When you understand that, it clears up so much confusion on the issue of spiritual warfare.
The second thing we do to defend ourselves is we avoid catering to the flesh. Because every time you take an excursion back to the sin nature, you open up a doorway—not for possession, but for influence or oppression. And a lot of the things that we blame Satan for we’ve actually brought on ourselves, because we’ve gone back to the sin nature.
I hope by now we all understand that we’re new creatures in Christ, but we still have a sin nature! Is there any disagreement on that? In fact, you feel the pull of the sin nature very strongly as you come to Christ; because now you’ve got another nature inside of you that’s enlightening you to the fact that there is a struggle. Before you got saved there wasn’t even a struggle.
Paul has revealed to us all of these provisional truths about our identity in Christ. He says, at the end of that whole discussion, in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
“You mean to tell me that the flesh in regard to its lusts is still in me? Even though all of these positional truths have been declared about me when I trusted in Christ, as articulated in the Book of Romans?” That’s exactly what we’re saying! That’s exactly what the Bible is saying!
The sin nature has not been eradicated! The only difference now is through the provisions that you have in Jesus Christ, you’re not a slave to the sin nature and you have the power to tell the sin nature, “No.” You didn’t have that power before; you probably didn’t even recognize there was a sin nature in you!
But now that you’re in Christ—you’re a new creature, you have the new nature, you have the Holy Spirit—you should not get the impression that the old nature just withers away and dies. It will be there until your dying day, or glorification, or the Rapture of the church—whichever comes first.
We often go back to the sin nature because the sin nature involves some excursions in temporary enjoyment. What does Hebrews 11 say? It talks about Moses, who decided to identify with his people rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. There’s always the passing pleasure that the sin nature gives, but the end fruit of it is death.
So, when I’m tempted to go back to the sin nature, I should tell the sin nature, “No.” But that pull will always be there until my dying day. Here’s something understand: the moment you go back to the sin nature is the moment you just cracked the door open for Satan to have an influence over your life. You say, “Where are you getting that from?” We’ve gone through many of these passages already, but the key one is Ephesians 4:26-27. “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” There is in black and white! If I go back to the sin nature, suddenly I’ve cracked the door open just a millimeter for Satan to have an influence over me that he didn’t have prior.
Another example of going back to the sin nature and giving Satan a millimeter of opportunity is the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16:13-23. Here Jesus says, “ ‘…who do you say that I am?’ ” And Peter coughed out the right answer. Jesus says to Peter, “That was revealed to you from above,” and He began to pronounce all of these blessings upon Peter.
I think at that point it probably went to Peter’s head a little bit, and the next time Peter thought he was in a position to correct Christ. The moment Peter opened his mouth the second time, Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Now what precipitated that? It doesn’t say it as clearly as it could be said, but I think it was pride, given all the wonderful things that Jesus had spoken about Peter. It’s very interesting that you can say one thing out of your mouth that glorifies God, and the next thing that comes out of your mouth? You just gave Satan a pulpit or a platform. That happens to us when we embrace the sin nature—in this case, pride.
I think that’s the same kind of thing going on with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:3-4 and Acts 5:11, where they were tempted to misrepresent their level of generosity to the church. We’re told there that Ananias and Sapphira were two believers that Satan had filled (PLEROO). PLEROO is the same verb used to describe the filling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian in Ephesians 5:18. In this case, it’s talking about the filling of Satan, “ ‘…why has Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit….”
So, we have three examples in the Bible—Peter, Ananias, and Sapphira—where they went back to the sin nature. They began to flirt or experiment with the sin nature, and they gave Satan a millimeter of opportunity—not to possess them, but to influence them (Ephesians 4:26-27).
The very next thing—besides recognizing that we are on defense—is simply not to cater to the flesh. If you’re not perpetually going back to the flesh, the amount of opportunity that Satan has to influence your life starts to shrink dramatically.
What is the third thing that we are to do as we embark in spiritual warfare? We are to resist the devil. It is interesting to me that in the Epistles—which govern the church, as we’ve talked about—there’s no information on casting out Satan, binding Satan, talking to Satan, praying down territorial spirits, etc. If you want to know what we do in spiritual warfare there’s just three simple passages: James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8- 9, and Ephesians 6:13. All three of those passages say, “Resist the devil.” The James passage says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Now that raises an interesting question, “How do I resist the devil?” It may have to do with number two. Because when you study all of those passages in their context, the flesh is mentioned in all those contexts. So, if I’m not experimenting with the flesh, if I’m not going back to the sin nature, then I in essence am resisting Satan. I’m playing defense against Satan, and the amount of influence that he has over me begins to shrink at that point.
The fourth thing we are to do? We are to understand that we, in spiritual warfare and spiritual combat, are not out there in our own strength. Because you run into people who will say, “Gosh! The Christian life is so difficult!” I would correct that statement: “The Christian life is not difficult; the Christian life is impossible!” And God understands the impossibility of us living the Christian life through our own strength. If that limitation wasn’t there, He wouldn’t give us resources to use.
You can’t get anywhere in your progressive sanctification—in the middle tense of your salvation—simply by making the energy of the flesh more active. “I’ve got to do more religious activity. I’ve got to work harder. I’ve got to try harder.” That’s not what your Bible says to do!
What does it say to do? Go with me to Ephesians 6:13. God never calls us to live the Christian life through our own power. He says, in Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Actually, the verse I was looking for is verse 10. “Finally, be strong in the Lord…” WOW! I forget that so quickly! I go out and try to be strong, but I’m not doing it in the Lord.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord…” And in the strength of your own willpower for 2020? No! “…and in the strength of His might.” Oh! Well, that would all make sense! I’ve got an adversary that’s far more powerful than me. The only hope I have is to be strong—not in my own self—but in His power.
One of the things to understand about grace (unmerited favor) is that it’s not just a yesterday thing. For years and years in my Christian life I understood grace as, “Yes, I trusted in Christ. I have salvation. I’m not going to hell.” I trusted in Christ when I was 16 years old. “Praise the Lord! Thank You, Lord, for Your grace!”
And grace is not just a tomorrow thing. “Praise the Lord, one of these days I’m going to heaven (glorification)!” We’ve got a handle on grace past, a handle on grace future. For whatever reason, we fall short in understanding that grace is a today thing! Grace is a right now thing!
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 the Apostle Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them [in other words, the Christian life isn’t passive], yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” So, when Paul taught the subject of grace? Yes, he taught it as a yesterday thing and a tomorrow thing, but he talked about it (divine enablement) as a moment-by-moment thing. You say, “Well, I don’t really deserve the power to overcome what I have to face in my life.” Of course, you don’t deserve it because that’s the nature of what? Grace (unmerited favor)!
In 2 Timothy 2:1, Paul’s instructing Timothy who is facing a lot of challenges, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” In other words, “Timothy, you want to successfully pastor the church in Ephesus despite all these problems and enter heaven fully rewarded? Then you have to tap into grace right now! Not just grace yesterday; not just grace tomorrow; but grace right now!”
That’s why Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” 1 John 4:4 says, “…greater is He who [not was in you—or will be in you but] is in you than he who is in the world.” So, how do we engage in spiritual warfare with God doing His part? We understand we’re on defense, we avoid going back to the flesh, and we resist the devil and he will flee. And we rely upon His resources and understand that He’s given us the grace we need for any conflict that we are in—spiritually speaking.
Then, the last thing we do is we put on the full armor of God. The big question is, “Are you dressed for success?” Over in Ephesians 6:10-20 are six pieces of armor that we are to appropriate on a moment-by-moment basis. You say, “You’re not going to cover all that today, are you?” No.
We’re going to be moving into the various pieces of armor for spiritual warfare. But before we do that, today I want to conclude with making eight preliminary observations about the spiritual warfare chapter. You might want to study this week Ephesians 6:10-20.
The first thing to understand about this chapter is Paul is in prison; we know that from Ephesians 3:1 and Ephesians 6:20. It’s in that place of confinement—his first Roman imprisonment—that he wrote the four prison letters: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon—in that order. And Paul, in those other letters, makes reference to his imprisonment (Philippians 1:13).
I am of the view that Paul was looking at a member of the praetorian guard when he wrote this chapter, because he talks in the Book of Ephesians (and more in the Book of Philippians) how he was chained to this praetorian guard. The praetorian guard was the elite guard in Caesar’s household.
You remember that Paul had petitioned a trial before Caesar, which he was allowed to do as a Roman citizen. So he’s in this place of confinement, chained to an elite guard, and it’s there he writes these four prison letters.
So, he’s using, I believe, a soldier metaphor here. He’s looking at the soldier that he’s chained to, and he’s developing in it a metaphor for the Christian life. When you understand those six pieces of armor, you’ll understand your present tense grace of God in spiritual warfare.
There are six pieces of armor mentioned here. And it’s interesting. He says in verse 11, “Put on the full armor of God…” For years and years in my Christian life, I’d become proficient in one or two pieces of armor; but that’s not what the Bible says to do. It says to put on all six pieces of armor—the complete armor of God—the full armor of God.
You have to think the way they thought in Greco-Roman times, because armies won or lost based on the quality of their armament. In other words, if you did not have the right sandals, shield, helmet, that was a game changer in terms of whether you were going to be victorious.
I’ve gone through those first four points: Paul’s in prison; soldier metaphor; six pieces of armor described; there’s a huge significance of armor in the ancient world. When you look at Ephesians 6:11, it’s not a suggestion in Greek. It’s in the imperative mood. So, when he says, “Put on the full armor of God…” he’s not saying, “Hey, why don’t you try this on and see how it works? Why don’t you take this out for a little trial and see if it goes well for you.” That’s not what’s communicated here! It is, “Put this on, or you’re going to be defeated!” Just like if you went out to war without your armor on in the ancient world, you were as good as dead.
Beyond that—bumping up to bullet point number one. There’s a lot of teaching on spiritual warfare and the armor of God, and a lot of it, in my opinion, is misguided because they start the study in Ephesians 6 (which is the sin we’re committing here). To understand the armor of God, you have to understand how Paul is taking prior concepts in the same book!
Do you not agree with me that before chapter 6 comes chapters 1-5? So, when Paul starts talking about pieces of armor, if you want to understand what this armor is, you trace the same word—or the same concept—to how it’s used earlier in the book. The error that people make when they teach spiritual warfare concepts is that they start the study in Ephesians 6. They ignore what Paul said prior to Ephesians 6—in chapters 1-3—and they go all over the Bible trying to figure out what this armor means.
There are some interesting interpretations of it—some of it actually could be valuable—but I’m convinced that’s not the way to understand this. Because Paul is a logical, linear thinker! When he gets into the subject of the armor, he is developing points, concepts, application; he is bringing to a head what had already been discussed in the first 5 chapters. As we go through each piece, I’ll show you what he’s talking about—not based on the Book of Leviticus, or Aaron’s robe, or all this other stuff, but on what Paul said earlier in the same book. That really is a very good Bible study methodology to embrace.
I talked for a minute earlier about the Book of Hebrews—the warning passages. We’re not getting into that right now. But when people interpret those warning passages, they take you into every section of the Bible other than the Book of Hebrews. Yet, if you just pay attention to how the same words are used in those warning passages elsewhere in the Book of Hebrews, you’ll understand the warning passages very easily.
The MacArthur Study Bible, for example, when it’s going through Hebrews 6. This is a very difficult passage. Look at his notes on Hebrews 6; he takes you everywhere in the Bible other than the Book of Hebrews. That is not good Bible study methodology in the warning passages. And it’s not very good Bible study methodology when trying to decipher, analyze, and understand the six pieces of armor.
Paul is reinforcing a prior concept. I believe he’s describing the pieces in the order that the centurion would put on himself. Because Paul is chained to this guy around the clock, he understood the procedure of how he put on the armor. Paul saw the order, so he’s revealing the pieces of armor in that same order.
For each piece of armor I’ll describe it, and I’ll talk about what it represents from which book? The Book of Leviticus? No. The Book of Isaiah? No. The Book of Ephesians—it’ll be clear! Then I’ll show you how to apply it moment by moment in daily life.
The bottom line to the whole thing? As we move into Ephesians 6 in the section of our study on angelology/demonology, we have to understand that we have six aspects of our weaponry summarizing the key concepts of the letter. Which letter? Ephesians! Calling the church to action.
It’s interesting that when you study Ephesians 1-3—how many commands do we have in 1-3? None! You get to Ephesians 4:1 which says, “Therefore…” When Paul uses the word “therefore,” you ask, “What is the word “therefore” there for?” That switches us from doctrine to practice. You’ll see Paul doing that same thing in Ephesians 5, “Therefore…” He’s taken us out of doctrine (chapters 1-4) and moved us into practice.
You’ll see Paul doing the exact same thing in Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies…” What mercies? Everything he got finished telling us in chapters 1-11. So, when he says “therefore,” he’s switching us from doctrine to practice.
What do you see in Ephesians 4:1? “Therefore.” So once you get into Ephesians 4-6, how many commands do you have? 38! No Greek commands (imperative mood) in chapters 1-3! Chapters 4-6? Now we’ve got 38 things to do from the knowledge base he’s already given us in chapters 1-3. Those commands culminate in the spiritual warfare section where he is taking prior concepts, analogizing it to spiritual armor, and telling us specifically what we need to appropriate to enjoy the middle tense grace of God in daily life as we go through spiritual warfare.
You’ve got here six pieces of armor.
What do these things mean? We have to define them by how Paul has developed those same words—truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and Spirit—in which book of the Bible? The Book of Ephesians, particularly Ephesians 1-3. You start to understand that, and you see exactly what Paul is telling us to do.
That is the direction that we’re going, starting next week. Give a read, if you could, this week to Ephesians 6:10-20. Let’s pray.
“Father, we’re grateful for today. We’re grateful for the truth that Your Word reveals about spiritual combat. We’re grateful for grace in the middle tense of our salvation. Help us to be good learners of these things.
But beyond just being a learner, Your Bible tells us there’s a blessing not just for the hearer but doer. So, help us to begin to apply these things to daily life. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name.”
God’s people said, “Amen.”