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Spiritual Warfare (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 11, 2022 4:00 am

Spiritual Warfare (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 11, 2022 4:00 am

The devil is often portrayed as a fairly innocuous troublemaker. Scripture, however, reveals him as a formidable foe! So how do we battle a fierce and cunning enemy that we can’t see? Find out when you listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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On TV or in the movies, the devil is often portrayed as fairly innocuous, a mischievous troublemaker, but scripture shows him to be an evil and formidable foe. So how do we prepare for spiritual battle against a fierce and cunning enemy that we can't see? We'll find out today on Truth for Life Weekend as Alistair Begg begins a study of spiritual warfare. Ephesians chapter 6. From now on, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor 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 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. What I'd like to do this evening is simply introduce our subject, which is this whole matter of spiritual warfare. And what I'd like to do is to read the verses again, this time in Phillips' paraphrase, because, as is so often the case, J.

B. Phillips manages to clarify and make very striking the issue that is before us. So this is Ephesians 6 and 10, following with the paraphrase done by Phillips, In conclusion, be strong, not in yourselves, but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God's complete armor, so that you can successfully resist all the devil's methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy. It is against organizations and powers that are spiritual.

We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore, you must wear the whole armor of God, that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill, you may still stand your ground. Take your stand, then, with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet, and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

Above all, be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ's men and women. And pray for me, too, that I may be able to speak freely here to make known the secret of that gospel, for which I am, so to speak, an ambassador in chains.

Pray that I may speak out about it, as is my plain and obvious duty. Now, before we look, then, at this, let's pause for a moment again in prayer. Our gracious God and loving Father, we thank you that in this evening hour we have the privilege of drawing aside to this hallowed place where you have met with us before and we have heard from you, and we thank you for the opportunity to open your Word and to hear your voice and to receive the direction that we need so that we might live life on the path that you have marked for us and in the power that you've provided for us and in the awareness of the realities which confront us. We pray for some of us this evening who are particularly struggling in relationship to the things we're about to consider, and we ask that you will help us so to understand the victory which is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ, that he has sounded the death knell of the devil and all of his hordes at the cross, that we may not be buried and distracted and confused, but rather that we might be lifted up and corrected and encouraged. Help us, then, we pray, as we look together at these verses of Scripture. We so much need your enabling both to speak and to hear. And so we seek you. In the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen. I have never fought in a battle. I guess I've never been in an army. But I have observed warfare, and I have read history, and I have had particular interest in certain conflicts which have taken place in the course of history. And it is apparent to me, as I guess it is to everyone who thinks, that if there is ever going to be victory in a battle, then one needs to have a thorough knowledge of the enemy, a healthy respect for his prowess in warfare, and that all as a necessary preliminary to ever engaging in the challenges which are before us. And if that is true, as it is, I'm sure, to any degree in terms of physical warfare, it is certainly true when it comes to this whole matter of spiritual warfare. And one of the things that is most prevalent in our day is a preoccupation in one of two extremes—either to become dreadfully preoccupied with the issues of the devil and spiritual warfare, to the point that we tie ourselves up in knots and they're somewhat defeated, or, on the other hand, to become preoccupied with the notion that there is no such thing as a devil and that spiritual warfare is just a throwback to another era and to another time.

Both of those extreme positions are wrong, they're unbiblical, and they're ultimately unhelpful. And to the degree that we find ourselves falling into either camp or caught by either trap, our Christian lives will suffer for it. If we underestimate our spiritual opponent, we'll see no need for the armor, and the result will be disastrous. If we overestimate our spiritual opponent, then the chances are that we will think about little else.

And so Paul, as he brings to conclusion this great and wonderful epistle to the Ephesians, says to them, I want you to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. And I want you to understand, he says, that to live the Christian life is to live in the realm of warfare. And he immediately introduces these folks to their enemy, whom he identifies as the devil, and also to the sphere in which this conflict takes place.

The struggle, he says, isn't against flesh and blood. If we make the mistake of thinking that our opponents are human beings, then we will spend a tremendous amount of time engaged in fighting the wrong foe. Rather, he says, we need to understand that the struggle is against the rulers and authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Now, some people have been at pains to suggest that these are four tiers of spiritual opponents. I'm not inclined to that view.

It may be accurate, I just am not inclined to it. I think that Paul is doing as he so often does, and that is simply heaping up phrases as he identifies one essential factor—namely, we have an enemy, and the sphere of the struggle is a spiritual realm, it is cosmic, it is unseen, it is all-embracing, and it is indeed unavoidable. Now, when we've said that—and we must say that—I want you to notice that there are a number of things which are absent from Paul's treatment, and this is actually one of the foremost treatments of the subject of spiritual warfare in the whole of the Bible.

Therefore, we might expect that the essential elements would be dealt with by the apostle in introducing the subject. Now, what I'm leading to say is this, that the preoccupations of this particular point in the Christian church introduce us to a whole host of things in a variety of novels and books on the subject of spiritual warfare. And some of the terms that I'm about to refer to will be known to those of you who read these books. For others of you, you won't know what I'm talking about.

It may cause you to go and research it, but I hope not to any particular degree. I want you to notice that in introducing very clearly this matter of spiritual warfare, Paul says nothing here about territorial spirits. For those of you who are into reading books on spiritual warfare, you will have already bought in, perhaps, to the idea of territorial spirits—that is, that the devil has assigned demons to certain streets, certain areas, certain towns, and certain houses. And that what we are supposed to do, before ever we do anything else, is to go around and identify these demons, name them, and then obliterate them in the power of Christ.

Now, it's not my purpose this evening to interact with that. It is simply to recognize this with you. Paul doesn't say that here. He does not suggest that the key to the issue in Ephesus is suddenly for the Christians to go out and try and discover who the demon is or what the demon is or what the demonic, satanic power is, which has a stranglehold on Ephesus, and then to name it and to pray against it. He does talk about warfare prayer, but the warfare prayer of Paul is not directed against evil, but the prayer is directed to God, and it is directed for the saints.

Warfare prayer, at the present time, is introduced to us as the approach in prayer whereby we again identify the demons and we pray against them in the name of Christ. There is nowhere in this section that Paul calls us to identify demons and to pray against demonic activity. Doesn't mean that it's wrong. I'm just pointing out that he doesn't do that. Thirdly, neither does he introduce the idea of prayer walking, which some of you, again, will have been introduced to through your reading—the idea that a mass of Christians go out for a walk, for example, through Solon, and they take an area for Christ by marching through it, holding opposite where the banner of Christ's victory over the demonic activity, and essentially naming and claiming the streets and the houses, etc., for Christ.

Again, please note that I'm not interacting with that activity. I'm simply pointing out that Paul doesn't introduce it. Indeed, I've been looking for it, and I can't find most of it, or hardly any of it, in my Bible in the issue of spiritual warfare. And since we want to be biblical, and since we want to assess things through the grid of Scripture, and since I want to encourage you to do the same, I mention that this evening, because many of you, in reading, have become intrigued by these things and, in certain cases, have actually found yourself distracted by them. The matter of spiritual warfare is a vital matter, and therefore it is an indication of the degree of spiritual warfare that the evil one and his hordes would be delighted, are delighted, when the believers who are supposed to engage in spiritual warfare properly become engaged in spiritual warfare wrongly, thereby dissipating their effectiveness, diminishing their power, and reducing their impact. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places or heavenly realms. Let us say quite straightforwardly that the Bible teaches, and we do believe, in the existence of a real devil. He is described as the devil, he is described as the evil one, he is described as Satan, he is variously depicted in the whole of the Bible, and we understand the fact of his existence. Paul, incidentally, does not argue for spiritual warfare or for the awareness of satanic activity or for the fact of this cosmic encounter. He simply assumes the knowledge of it on the part of these people. The people in Ephesus were in little doubt that there was a devil.

They were in no way lacking in an understanding of that. And if you'll turn with me to Acts and to the story there of the early days of the church in Ephesus, you will see that Paul's readers were quite aware of this whole area of cosmic struggle. Acts chapter 19, and verse 11, God was doing extraordinary miracles through Paul so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured, and the evil spirits left them. This, incidentally, is why you sometimes come across people on television telling you to hold your handkerchief up to the television, or put your hand on the television, or have your dog touch the television, as I saw recently, because someone's dog had been unwell, and the person encouraged them to have their dog put their nose up against the TV, and they would pray for it to be healed.

It really is such a dreadful state of affairs. But anyway, Paul, as an apostle, was enabled by the Spirit of God powerfully to be used in this way. And some of the Jews who were intrigued by all of these goings on, we're told in verse 13, went around driving out evil spirits.

At least they went around trying to. And they tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. And they would say, In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out. Seven sons of Siva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you guys? So the evil spirit called their bluff, then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them, overpowered them all, and gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. So they didn't need anybody to convince them about the reality of demonic activity, the reality of spiritual warfare, the existence of cosmic and satanic involvement in spiritual wickedness. The very fact that the seven guys go out with all their clothes torn off and bashed up and beaten up and bleeding, everybody said, Did you hear what happened to the seven sons of Siva? Now nobody would have difficulty talking about spiritual warfare to these people, because they understood it clearly.

So much so that verse 17 says, When this became known to the Jews and the Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. And many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. Incidentally, this is what happens when the Spirit of God moves in power. People asking all the time, Is there revival here? Is there revival there? Well, one of the ways in which revival is identifiable throughout all of history—biblical history too—is that there are dramatic and inexplicable events in relationship to the repentance of believers and the radical change which God brings about in their lives. If revival were to come to an area such as this, we would soon anticipate that the impact of the Spirit of God in and through people would close down all the little evidences of satanic interest—the tarot card readers and the palm readers and the horoscope merchants and all of these jokers would either run away or be chased away by the dramatic impact and input of the power of Jesus Christ. You'll know that revival has come when porn shops are closed down, when video stores start to throw out their trash.

But probably not until. And the seven sons of Siva got their beating, and then people who had practiced sorcery began to bring their scrolls together, and they started to burn them in a big public bonfire. And when they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.

And a drachma was a silver coin worth about a day's wages. How do I know that? It says it down at the bottom of the Bible if you're using a pew Bible. There's nothing clever about this stuff. I just get to read longer than most of you.

I'm supposed to. Fifty thousand days' wages—that was a lot of satanic activity that had been going on in Ephesus. If there was that much stuff going on, and that amount of people using these scrolls, and verse 20, in this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. So when he writes to the Ephesians, and he says, Now I want you to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, they look at one another and say, That's right. And when he said, Now I want to make sure that you put on all of your armor, they said, We're gonna be listening to this, because we need that armor, and we need to be wearing it.

And when he reminded them that the struggle that they were facing was in this dramatic realm, they were not put off by that in any way. We may need to be convinced of it. We may find ourselves sitting here saying, No, I don't think that's right.

And indeed, I think, by and large, the church at this point in history doesn't think it's right, apart from a few preoccupied zones. If we really thought that this was the battle, and if we really believe that this is the armor, and if we really believe that prayer is the key to effective transformation in a culture, then we could relax about November and the whole political struggle. We could take some of the multimillion dollars and use them for world missions.

We could take some of the stuff and use it for the poor and for the downtrodden, instead of simply trying to create an America that we will like to live in for the next four years. Why is it that the church is preoccupied with all those other things? Because the church believes that that's the battle.

And Paul says, Mm-mm, here's the battle. We're not up against human beings here. We're up against this powerful, evil, cunning force. Notice how he identifies this struggle as being a struggle that is against a great power. Actually, the word that he uses is cosmocritoris, from which we get, of course, our world cosmos, at least part of it. He says these are the world rulers of the present darkness. The word that he actually uses there was used in astrology of the planets, which in the minds of these people were used to control the fate of mankind. Which, frankly, remains true. In our generation, many people believe that somehow or another the movement of the planets is in control of mankind. And Paul wants his readers to understand that the foe is defeated, that these powers are no longer what they once were.

The fact is, they just won't quit. The victory in Christ is certain. V-day is absolute, but we're in V-day and D-day. The victory has been established, but the skirmishes are going on before finality is brought to the whole matter. To live the Christian life is to live in the realm of warfare.

That's Alistair Begg, you're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. In order to stand strong in spiritual warfare, we need to know our enemy, but we also need to know our Savior and his provision for us in the battle. Everything we need to know can be found in Scripture. That's why our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible, and only the Bible, every single day.

It's our pattern to teach verse by verse so that all who listen will come to understand what God's Word says, and how it relates to our daily lives. Now, if you're going to be traveling this summer, we don't want you to miss listening to Truth for Life on the radio. You can find a station and broadcast time at your new destination by using the Truth for Life station finder.

It's very simple to use. Go online to truthforlife.org slash station finder. Enter the zip code or the city name or the nearest landmark of where you'll be staying. You'll be presented with a list of stations and the times Alistair's program can be heard in that location.

Again, that's at truthforlife.org slash station finder. While you're on our website, check out Alistair's book, Lasting Love, How to Avoid Marital Failure. Maybe you've been married for 25 or even 50 years, and maybe you're thinking there's nothing left to learn about marriage. But in the book, Lasting Love, Alistair Begg explains that there's no timeline beyond which couples shouldn't remain vigilant in their lives together. He shows how couples, even those who have been married a long time, can care for the little things as well as the big things that will ensure their marriage union remains fulfilling and God-honoring. When you read Lasting Love, you'll learn how to experience the deepest spiritual joy in your marriage, whatever the season.

You can find out more about the book, Lasting Love, when you visit our website at truthforlife.org. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today. To win a battle, we have to know our enemy and have to recognize his strategies. So, what are some of the evil one's most common lines of attack? Find out when you join us next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-06 12:57:02 / 2023-04-06 13:05:37 / 9

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