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Is spiritual warfare biblical?

A friend asked me the question “Is spiritual warfare biblical?” He wonders if our martial terminology around the gentle task of prayer isn’t overdone. Warfare implies anger, maiming and killing, when our primary avocation is as healers and peacemakers.   Perhaps we’ve read too much Frank …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
A friend asked me the question “Is spiritual warfare biblical?” He wonders if our martial terminology around the gentle task of prayer isn’t overdone. Warfare implies anger, maiming and killing, when our primary avocation is as healers and peacemakers.
 
Perhaps we’ve read too much Frank Perretti. Clearly, confronting evil is biblical (Eph. 6), but perhaps we Evangelicals should consider different words when talking about it.
 
Before I answered him, I thought, “Well of course it is.” I mean, I’ve participated in deliverance sessions that will curl your hair. I’ve been around evil. You don’t play pattycake with it. You either have authority or you don’t. Pretenders and theorists don’t last long.
 
But it’s a fair question, one which, rather than answer myself, I’d rather throw out to you, my blog readers. What do you think, should we call it spiritual warfare? How should we approach it?

Comments (26)

  • In Daniel 10 Daniel had been in mourning/fasting for 3 weeks, he was having visions and prophecies of the future.
    Finally, Gabriel came to him in a vision and told him (verses 12-14):

    Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.”

    Daniel’s concerns were heard when he first started to pray, and Gabriel was sent to answer, but the ‘spirit prince’ blocked him from answering, and the Archangel had to come and assist, all the while Daniel was fasting. Gabriel finally broke through and after 21 days, Gabriel finally arrived to give Daniel the message from the Lord. And Micheal had to stay so Gabriel could go…This sounds to me like some heavy spirit warfare…even for the Old Testament..

  • @ Richard, Yes, I will be praying for you and your loved one!

    @ David, post #9, Sorry, but you are very mistaken, Moses told the Israelite people.
    from your post:
    “”Ex 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.””

    NIV “13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

    GOD: then told Moses to do no such thing, But to Move Forward!

    NIV “15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”

    Paul was writing to the Ephesians, it has to be relevant to their situation, he may have told them to ‘put on the armour and stand’ for a good reason.

    Jesus said to GO and make disciples, baptize and teach. Matt. 28: 18- 20

    The Great Commission (NIV)

    16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    In Christ’s commision according to Mark 16:15-18
    He says they will also “IN MY NAME THEY WILL DRIVE OUT DEMONS”

    Spiritual warfare is not ‘going and looking for trouble’ It IS part of setting the captives FREE.

  • Wow! I was excited to hear what you had to say. Especially since my conference next week is titled, “21st Century Church Wars.”

    However, “yes,” spiritual Warfare is biblical according to Eph 6:10-17 (NIV) which reads as thus: “…Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

    Also, Ephesian 6:10-17, which reads as thus: “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

    Several other scriptures relates to spiritual warfare as well so the answer is “yes,” ‘spiritual warefare is bibical.”

  • “our weapons are not flesh and blood, but principalities and powers.”. “divine power to demolish strongholds.”. “shield of faith”. “sword pf the spirit”.

    Sounds pretty darn biblical to me.
    Your friend is probably concerned about too much emphasis on warfare. To a point he may be right. Warfare is a piece of cake when your trust is in God. That means focus On God, His power, His wonder, His might, His love. And not focusing on annoying gnat-like evil. Don’t look at the bloody mess of a raging war; look at the victory God wins, with confidence. “in quietness and strength shall be your salvation…”

  • Thanks Seth for a bold prompting again on your blog. Here is my answer. I have been a part of many “deliverance” sessions and times around the globe. The most fierce have been with “Christians” in Colorado Springs. Period….

  • Seth,

    Can one person (a Christian) effectively perform a deliverance by simply praying for a person or does it require a team who have been trained, who have fasted and who have mega doses of faith?

  • Richard,

    I’d rather have a team (“where two or more are gathered”). But it’s all about authority. We have been delegated amazing authority in Jesus, but most people don’t believe it or understand how to use it.

  • The “you’ that get’s the keys to the Kingdom and the power to bind is loose mentioned in Matthew 16:17-19 isn’t an individual “you”. It’s a corporate “you”, He’s talk about building a legislative body that would make judicial decisions together. If Jesus was from Texas He would have said “I’ll give “ya’ll” the keys and whatever “ya’ll” bind and loose…

    Warfare is relevant, sometimes necessary, but definitely meant to be a corporate activity.

  • God never asked you to fight anything, Christ did that already and has defeated satan. Rev. 19:11 “With justice He judges and makes war.” God only asks that we preach the Gospel and stand. Ex 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The verses you are quoting from Ephesians state “His mighty power” Do not attempt to speak with satanic beings through your power, remember what happened in Acts! Acts 19:16 “…they fled out of that house naked…” Don’t look to involve yourself with deliverance for the sake of it being an exotic or exciting gift. Gifts of healing and deliverance come from God and anything spoken must be in the name of Jesus. Some are gifted with that some aren’t.

  • Robin: In Daniel 10, now look closely, Daniel’s prayer had been answered from when he began to pray. He didn’t get an answer for 21 days later. The Angel of the Lord was fighting for 21 days, not Daniel. “Since the first day you began to pray…” the Word says. So, yes Daniel was fasting and praying, for what reason we don’t know. Maybe he wanted to know what God was going to do for his people. But the actual fight was in the heavenlies.

  • And Ephesians: read carefully. It’s not saying to put on the armor to go and cast out devils. It’s saying to put on the armor to stand against satan’s temptations, no fight the devil.

  • OK everyone’s comments are good, but I have another question, does the person who has issues in the spiritual realm need to seek to be set free, or can prayers be said for the person and God deliver that person (like what takes place in the new testament when the crowds gathered around jesus, and the demons fled or were cast out at the word of Jesus or his disciples?

  • In Ephesians 6:10 Paul says for us to be strong in the Lord’s power. Then he says that ‘we’ are not in a battle against flesh and blood, but we are against spiritual forces of wickedness (not necessarily Satan), and that is why we need the spiritual armor, so we can stand firm against the devil’s schemes. Then he goes into what each piece of armor is.

    Then he ends it with not only do we need these pieces of armor but we need to be praying in the spirit at all times, stay alert and be persistent in our prayers for believers everywhere.

    Paul uses the battle analogy for a reason. Whether it’s literal or not, it was important enough for Paul to stress to the Ephesians that there is something spiritual going on that they needed to be ready for.

  • Richard: God is a God of healing and deliverance. Remember when the solider said to Jesus that all He had to do was speak the word and his daughter would be healed? So,prayers prayed in Christ name will be answered whether you are alone or in a group. Christ hears. And what we pray, praying in his will, he will answer. Christ said to go into you closet and pray and he also said where 2 or 3 are gathered in his name.

    Robin: My point is not to get caught up in spiritual fights. It is for you to stand. Your foundation being the word of God. Even Paul says, after we have put on all the armor, to “Stand.” And what does “praying in the Spirit” mean? The church at Corninth had questions about what that meant and Paul said he wanted to show them a better way: I Corinthians 12, 13, 14

  • The many stories of Jesus casting out demons tell us that confrontation with evil is certainly biblical – and inevitable for His followers. And Jesus encourages us that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12) And He has equipped His disciples for the evil challenges we will face: “I have given you authority to …overcome all the power of the enemy”. (Luke 10:19)
    So is it “warfare”? Perhaps. Sometimes we use strong language and imagery to gird ourselves up, but the real key is knowing the source of our strength and our inner preparation, not the accoutrements of battle. David rejected the armor of men because his protection came from a higher source. Once “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David.” (I Sam 16:30) Surely the strength of the Spirit must have emboldened David as he “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet [Goliath]” (1 Sam 17:48), a giant so fearsome that no other “warrior” had dared oppose him over 40 days of taunting and challenges.
    Standing in front of Goliath, David confirms the source of his strength: “I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I will strike you down”. (1 Sam 17:45-46)
    We can approach evil as David did in that moment: know it for what it is, and look within to the power of the Spirit for strength in our response.

  • Thanks to all who have provided answers to my few questions here. Please pray for wisdom for me concerning how to pray for a dear loved one who recently attempted to end their life (for a second “serious act” time) The person says they are saved (said they have prayed the sinners prayer – time and again0 So i am not sure what is happening, All I know is that the enemy needs to be bound over this persons life. Will any of you agree to pray for this person? i would appreciate that so much. Thank you. Richard

  • I am not afraid of the Devil I laugh at him and tell him to leave in the name of Jesus! when he tries again, I tell him the same thing, that i have the authority in the name of Jesus to cast out demons and he must flee.

  • If you want to really get into the Biblical evidences, you should read “God at War” by Gregory Boyd.

    As far as praxis goes, I asked a North Indian church planter who is a leader of a movement where hundreds of thousands of new churches have been planted in the last decade, “What is the most important aspect of evangelism/church planting that I should know”? He answered, Jesus asks, “Unless you bind the strongman how then will you go and plunder his goods”? So, spiritual warfare by prayer and authority was a major key to the success that they have seen in their part of the world.

    First thing I thought of was “Man, we don’t emphasize this type of prayer much at all in the Western world anymore.” We have “been there, done that” even though most really haven’t at all. We just think we have and we bring up all kinds of kooky and weird examples rather than returning to the Scriptures and looking at Jesus and the early church as examples.

    I John 3:8: What was the purpose of the Son of God being manifested? To destroy the works of the devil. It is the “already, not yet” reality of warfare that we live in today. The enemy has been defeated, but he is not yet fully defeated until all things are put under Christ’s feet. The role of the Church is to make known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers. Ephesians 3:10. We still have lots of work to do!

  • The thing I find interesting is how Ephesians 6 seems to be taken as justification for our “model” of spiritual warfare, but then pretty much ignored in the practice of it.

    There’s clearly some confrontation and battle being described in the passage, and there are plenty of other passages that talk about how to go around casting out demons, but on reading the actual text itself and looking at the weaponry involved, that particular passage does seem to be talking about something more internal. It doesn’t seem to me that you need righteousness and truth and readiness to share the gospel in order to say to someone “In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic presence to leave”. Faith, Ok perhaps.

    It seems to me that “taking ground’ and “releasing captives” isn’t about standing on a nearby hill and saying “I bind this or that or the other”, but happens when we go out with the characteristics listed and actually do the stuff – when we preach the gospel, lovingly correct the lies in people’s lives that may have bound them, letting the Holy Spirit make the Word of God come alive to them, trust God unswervingly when tough things are coming at us, all the while letting the certainty of our salvation protect our minds and keeping our hearts righteous.Then the flag of the kingdom will be flying in the “ground” of our lives and others, as those parts are submitted to his kingship.

    That said, I would like to learn more and become more adept in the whole casting out demons thing, not because it sounds fun but because there situations in my life and the lives of those I love where the enemy seems to hold sway. Last time God suggested rebuking something I bottled out due to the only other person in the room being a non-Christian close member of my family. I’d love to know what God would have done!

  • @Richard: I’ll stand with you in prayer and for your compassionate & seeking heart. There is so much that I don’t fully undersatand, but I know that God is good and is neither sleeping nor MIA. Praying for a peace that heals and redeems and restores. Thank you for the privilege of praying with you- doing all we can do to stand and then standing therefore and watching this unseen God move.

  • Allie, Saz and John, thank you all for the great comments. If this were not such a pressing matter in my life I would just stop addressing these posts. But alas I cannot stop until I know that God has moved on the behalf of the person who I want to be free and healed.

    I know God knows this, and some will say just let God have this person. But I also know that Jesus told of two stories where “persistence” was the venue that got the food to feed the friend’s guest in the middle of the night, and the woman justice before the court magistrate.

    My prayer, My Holy Father in Jesus name, send someone to my friend Tammy to lead her back to you and deliver her from all darkness that is trying to destroy her and take her away from You! Father send Your light bearer, whether it be a person here on earth, or an Angel from Your thrown room in heaven, but quickly send the light to destroy the darkness that is blinded and binding her from You and Your Holy One Jesus the Christ. Lord come to her now and set her free in the mighty name and in the Blood of Christ Jesus, amen.

  • It says plainly in Ephesians 6:10-20

    10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

    11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

    12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

    14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

    15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

    16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

    17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

    18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

    19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

    20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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