Now there’s spiritual warfare and flesh and blood breaking down
Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground
The enemy is subtle, how be it we are so deceived
When the truth’s in our hearts and we still don’t believe? -Precious Angel, Bob Dylan
Having just read the book Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views , and not being completely satisfied with any of the four views (I’m mostly with Powlinson but with a dash of Boyd), I thought I’d offer a recent reflection on the subject. As a pastor, spiritual warfare is of great practical importance. As one with some charismatic leanings, I am aware of the great ocean of ridiculous teachings on the subject. I am also aware of the not-so-ridiculous need for clarity and practical help in regards to this issue. As someone deeply concerned about sharing the Gospel and equipping others to do the same, I’m going to reflect on an oft-overlooked aspect of this warfare: Our Evangelistic Speech.
Spiritual warfare may conjure up images of casting out demons and so forth, but that’s not where I’m headed today. I really do believe in the reality of dark, personal powers that influence individuals and groups in many ways and on many levels. There may well be occasions for confronting their presence and relieving the oppressed with delivering prayer. But that’s not where I’m going today.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is a quintessential warfare passage. Lots of people try to make it say lots of stuff it doesn’t. There may be a place for warfare praying and casting out, but it doesn’t find its basis here. Paul here is writing about our speech. Let’s take a look:
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV
Here’s what we can see:
1) Paul makes it clear there is no place for physical violence in the name of Christ. There is no way we can spread the Faith using force; the weapons are not physical = of the flesh. You don’t have to be a strict pacifist (I am not!) to acknowledge this. The language of combat is non-literal. There is no mistake.
2) The context here is one of speaking the truth of Christ to the unbelieving and the resistant. Read the whole chapter. He’s talking about his ministry of words; his speech and preaching.
3) What the spiritual battle is against is against namely: strongholds, arguments, every high thing exalting itself against God, every thought… These are ideological opposition to God’s truth. They are philosophies, ideas, beliefs which are contrary to the truth of God revealed through the Gospel.
4) The way to come against them, to do warfare, is to tell them truth. If the philosophy, argument, idea, belief is in another person it means we must speak to them the truth. Telling someone the truth is an act of spiritual warfare.
All other methods of spiritual warfare aside, this means an important aspect of spiritual warfare is speaking the truth to others. Declaring to them the truth of our state, and of Christ, and of His work. That sounds like telling someone the Gospel, doesn’t it? It is that simple and doesn’t seem too ethereal does it? That someone will have a myriad of beliefs and assumptions that need to be countered. This doesn’t have to be antagonistic, it can be in the context of a friendly but challenging conversation about their views. In fact, I believe the warfare is best when it shows the highest respect and kindness to the person. When we speak to a non-Christian friend about Jesus and the Gospel, we are engaging in a collision between world-views. It is a warfare on a large scale but we have a spiritual weapon that is powerful.
Talking to someone, finding out where they’re at, persuading them, pointing them to Christ is a loving act. But it doesn’t seem like a powerful act. It is quite vulnerable and seemingly weak. This is exactly why Paul needs to tell us that it is, in fact, mighty (see v 4). It is no small thing to speak simply to someone about the truth of Christ. The next you are speaking to someone about Gospel things remember there is a war on between belief and unbelief. Let’s all grow in this spiritual warfare.