Summary: A look at spiritual warfare, based not on the popular ideas on the subject, but on the biblical text.
I am sure that nearly all of us are aware that our country, though not in a declared war, is still fighting two campaigns half a world away. What these campaigns have in common is that the enemy, while defeated, is still waging a war of insurgency against our troops and against our country.
Nearly every war I can think of has at some point had an insurgency or what we often call a guerilla war. You find this kind of warfare in situations where the enemy is totally overwhelmed and very often when the enemy is defeated. In cases like this, though the war is over, the battle goes on, sometimes indefinitely.
This topic in our study of 2 Corinthians is, to continue the military metaphor, a minefield. We are talking about spiritual warfare. And the topic may have been written on and talked about more in the last 35 years than in the prior two millennia. The fact that the church is at war against a defeated enemy is not news – the Scriptures make it plain and the reality of the resurrection testifies to the fact that Satan has been defeated. He now wages a war of insurgency – trying to create as much confusion and discouragement as possible. The spiritual warfare we are involved in now is a fight against the last-ditch efforts of a defeated foe. But this contemporary idea of spiritual warfare has introduced us to terms like “prayer walking”, “spiritual mapping”, “territorial spirits”, “generational curses”, “strongholds of darkness”, “binding dark powers” and “pulling down strongholds”. Just what exactly is spiritual warfare all about, and how do we wage this war?
I must confess, it would take perhaps a dozen weeks of preaching and more time for in depth study than this part-time pastor has available to treat the subject fairly. I had it in mind to preach on the first 8 verses and be done with this subject. But the more I studied them, the less I thought I could do that. There might be ten sermons in the first 8 verses, but I’m going to try to get this done in 2 or 3.
An appropriate teaching on the subject of spiritual warfare is a narrow road with deep ditches on either side! So this morning I am going to simply stick to the text at hand as best I can and try to gain some insight on some of the broader issues without falling into one of those ditches!
It is a bit unpopular these days to use military metaphors to describe the Christian life. In fact, a few denominations have carefully excised every hymn from their hymnals that use military terms. Or else they simply change the words. But the Scriptures don’t make any such apology. This is a war we’re engaged in. And you and I don’t have to look far to see that we live in a spiritual battle zone. When we saw those planes crashing into the twin towers barely 50 miles from here, I think we all knew in that moment that we were not simply witnessing an awful tragedy. Evil was at work. Before that day was over, we had started to trace the outlines of a conspiracy that was bent on creating chaos and suffering. We were looking at one face of evil.
On any city street, we can see overt evils in the drug pushers and gangs. It is not hard to spot evil in the displays of pornography, or in the ads that lure people to believe lies of materialism or unrestrained sensuality. But we make a serious mistake in thinking that evil only shows up in these ways. Many Christians ignore the evil that is hidden away inside their own ranks. Perhaps you saw on the news a few weeks ago the testimony of a child in South Jersey against her foster mother who, with her husband, had systematically starved him and his siblings, all the while quoting Bible verses and being model church members. We Christians cheat and steal, we gossip and hate. We live private lives that are inconsistent with what we profess on Sunday mornings. And all of this is the face of evil and it is the battleground of spiritual warfare.
In the midst of his defense of his own ministry, Paul launches into a discussion of the way that we are to engage a defeated enemy who is waging a campaign of insurgency.
He understands that evil is indeed present in this world and it is a force that Christians must understand and deal with every day.
I’ve divided this passage into three points. They are:
1-3 We live and we fight in the world
4-5 We live and we fight with powerful weapons
6-8 We live and we fight as those under authority