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Spiritual warfare pt1: origin and tactics

Spiritual Warfare


Main Scriptures
Series: Spiritual Warfare
Book: Genesis
Scripture References




4 foundations for understanding our spiritual battle.

1: The reality of Satan (Gen 3:1-6)

2: The Sovereignty of God (Job 1:6-21)

3: The Battle for Truth (1 Kings 22:1-8; 19-23)

4: The Victory of Jesus (Lk 4:1-13)


Last week we worked out way through the second half of Acts 16 and in that section came across an account of Paul driving out a demon from a servant girl. I said that I would first cover the passage in its own context and then come back and look at the particular issue of spiritual warfare because it is such a vital topic which is so misunderstood and abused in our day.

So this morning I want to begin to do that by starting with the bigger picture, so that we can put the issue of spiritual warfare into its biblical context in the broadest sense.

This morning then, the origins and tactics of spiritual warfare.

5 biblical illustrations which show us the nature and origin of spirual warfare.



·      Gen 1:1: God created the heavens and the earth. So God created more than the earth, He also created the heavens, the universe, and he filled it with other created bodies – planets, stars and heavenly beings and as Gen 1 keeps affirming, it was all good.

·      Gen 1:26-27 The pinnacle of that creation is mankind who were created in God’s image to know Him and rule on His behalf over all that God had made.

·      But something happened between Gen 1 and Gen 3….

·      Gen 3:1 We are introduced to the serpent as crafty and deceitful. He leads Adam and Eve to disobey God’s direct command and He does so by deceitful, crafty scheming.

o  1: He begins with “Did God actually say…” and he twists what God said just slightly, subtly to make it seem like God is a cosmic killjoy, putting all these delicious fruits in the garden and forbidding them to eat any of it.

o  By vs 3 he has moved to directly contradicting God’s Word, the Hebrew is literally “Not you will die.” God said “You will die.” Satan said “Not you will die.” And he denied that God was speaking the truth.

o  Vs 5 he has moved to questioning God’s motives. God just doesn’t want any equals or rivals. If you eat of this fruit you will be like God and be your own judge of what is good and evil. You don’t need to believe and obey God if you can be like God. Why submit to His own authority when you can be your own authority?

·      So the Bible doesn’t waste any time in introducing us to the reality of spiritual warfare. It doesn’t tell us where serpent came from, how he came to be evil and against God.


·      It does tell us that God has a very real enemy. Someone who is intelligent and crafty and able to manipulate God’s creation and tempt God’s image-bearers to disbelieve and disobey Him.

·      He resents God being alone. God being the single sovereign ruler of the universe. What he really wants is for God’s creatures to rise to the level of their creator, to be like God.

·      In other words, pride is the summary source of all that motivates him and the goal is equality with God.


·      From here on, the battle escalates and continues throughout the Bible and throughout human history until the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, shows how God will finally defeats Satan and remove his influence from the earth.

·      In other words the biblical story starts with Satan and it’s not done until Satan is fully dealt with. The story of mankind is the story of a cosmic battle, not between God and Satan, but between mankind and Satan. God is not threatened by Satan and His plans are not thwarted by Him. God can no more wrestle with Satan than we can wrestle with an ant. The battle is between us and Satan. Will we believe God and follow God, or will we believe Satan and follow Satan.


So we’ve had a look at the battle on earth, let’s go up into heaven and see what things look like there.

·      Job 1:1 a man who fears God and keeps his commandments.

·      Job 1:6 On a day the angels appear before God in heaven. The term “sons of god” has been translated in the NIV as “angels” and NRSV as “heavenly beings” because that is what the phrase means. God is a king and has a throne in heaven and a counsel of heavenly beings who He consults with from time to time.

·      1:7 We see here that Satan has access to God when summoned and some measure of freedom to move around on earth.

·      1:6 Among them is Satan. The text says literally “the Satan” and the Hebrew word means “adversary” or “accuser.” That is so much his posture and his tactics and demeanour that the description has become a title for him. He is our adversary who is always accusing us before God.

o  Elsewhere in the Scripture he is called the devil (Matt 4:11), the serpent (2 Cor 11:3); Be-elzebul (Matt 10:25), the ruler of the world” (Jn 12:31); the prince of the power of the air (eph 2:2); the evil one (Matt 16:11) and the Father of evil.

·      1:8 On this occasion, however, God is the one who begins the conversation, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Satan, how is it that you have had so little success in drawing Job away from faithful service to me? God is instigating with Satan.

·      But again, notice here that the fight is between Satan and mankind, not Satan and God. God has no adversaries, we do.

·      1:9-11 It’s only because you bless and protect him. Take away your blessing and he’ll curse you.

·      1:11 Notice how Satan wants God to stretch out His hand against Job, but God doesn’t, He merely gives Satan permission to do what he has been itching to do all along. And along with permission he gives Satan very specific boundaries. You can touch his family and environment, but you can’t touch him.

·      God is wanting to strengthen Job’s faith and Satan is wanting to destroy Job’s faith. God is wanting to show Job His glory and Satan is wanting to hide God’s glory from Job. Satan is the one doing the evil, God is the one permitting the evil to be done for good purposes with good motives.

·      1:13-19. Here we see the truth of Jesus’ statement that Satan comes only to kill and steal and destroy (Jn 10:10). He arranges death and destruction to come upon Job’s household in a single day and plans for the news to all reach Job at once. He is trying to engineer this situation so that it would be too much for Job to bear.

·       Here we see what great power and influence Satan has on the earth. He controls armies (15); supernatural phenomenon (16), they assumed it was fire from God, because it was fire coming down from the heavens but it was really fire from Satan; Kingdoms like the Chaledeans (17) and natural phenomenon like the wind (19), the circumstances so that the whole family is in the house at once.

·      In Job 2 we will have round 2 and there God will allow Satan to attack Job himself, though he is not permitted to kill him. So Satan gives the man every kind of suffering and sickness in order to inflict the greatest possible pain without actually killing him. Satan can influence sickness and pain and suffering.

·      1:20-21Job passes the test with flying colours and yields to God’s sovereignty. Notice that Job has sound theology. He doesn’t see these as chance events , or put it down to bad luck, or blame the wickedness of the Sebeans, or the negligence of his servants or the bad construction techniques of the builders – though all those things played a role. Job can’t see Satan, he doesn’t know that Satan is behind all of this, but even if he did, he knows that behind Satan, and behind the sinfulness of the nations and the negligence of people, is God. None of this could have happened unless God allowed it. Nothing takes place except by the sovereign will and purpose of God and that purpose is always good. So Job can bless God and yield to whatever sovereign purpose He has.

Temptation and truth

·      Then, of course, when none of these more direct methods work, Satan resorts to His primary strategy, which is deceitful, crafty twisting of God’s word and calling into question God’s character, God’s integrity, and tempting Job to be His own judge of truth and righteousness rather than accept God’s judgement.

·      What follows is chapter after chapter of dialogue and if you read through the dialogue, you often can’t fault the theology of Job’s counsellors. What they say seems to accord with the Scriptures and yet at the end of the book God says to Eliphaz “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7) God was angry with them, not because they didn’t love Job, or show him more compassion or patience but because they had not spoken the truth about Him.

·      That is Satan’s strategy, not to deny God, but to subtly twist the truth about Him, to distort God’s character and question God’s ways, even while seeming to speak sound theology.


·      The book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible and it’s all about this cosmic battle between Satan and mankind.

·      It tells us why there is killing and stealing and destruction in this world, because of Satan. We have a formidable enemy with great power and great cunning.

·      It tells us what Satan wants to achieve, he wants to destroy our faith in God, and the worship and service that flows from that.

·      It tells us that God is in sovereign control of Satan and everything else. Satan cannot touch us unless God allows it, Satan cannot do anything except with permission. The climax of the book is in the closing chapters, from Chapter 37. These chapters are an exposition of God’s sovereignty (turn there quickly)

o  God’s controls thunder(2) lighting (3), snow (6), the hand of every man so that all men whom he made may know it (7), the beasts (8), the wind (9), the ice (10), the rain (11)

o  12 all these turn around and around by his guidance to accomplish all the he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction, or for his land, or for love, he causes it to happen.”

o  God allows Satan and sinful men to work evil in this world in order to show His glory more clearly and to strengthen the faith of His servants. That is what is accomplished by the end of Job – God’s sovereign glory is put on display and Job’s faith in God is strengthened – because God knows that this is the only means by which we will win the battle against Satan. By seeing His glory more clearly and trusting in Him and His word more implicitly.


3: the battle for truth (1 Kings 22)

I want to turn to a less familiar example, which has many similarities with Job in 1 Kings 22

·      There is a context. It’s during the days of the divided kingdom. Israel in the north and Judah in the South. Jehoshaphat is the king of the Southern kingdom and Ahab the king of the Northern kingdom. There is so much idolatry in Israel that God’s people don’t even know who the true God is anymore. Ahab has killed almost all of God’s prophets except the remnant that God protected. In 1 Kings 18 we had that big showdown between Elijah and the false prophets on Mt Carmel where God showed His glory and power and also the truthfulness of His Word because no rain came at the Word of the Lord for 3 years and then rain came again exactly according to God’s Word at the mouth of Elijah.

·      1 Kin 21:25-26. Ahab was the chief of sinners. His name and rule came to be the standard by which all evil reigns were measured from this point on.

·      22:1-4 There had been peace between Israel and Syria, but they were in possession of Ramoth-gilead. So one day when Jehoshophat has come down to visit Ahab, Ahab instigates a fight – will you go with me up against the Syrians to take back Ramoth-gilead.

·      22:5-7 Jehoshaphat is, on the whole, a good king so his first question is, “What does God think?” Ahab calls together this host of prophets who all agree that this is a good idea and God is with them. Jehoshaphat knows that these are not prophets of the true God but false prophets, so he asks whether there is not a prophet of Yahweh among them.

·      22:8. Here we see the contrast between the false prophets and the true prophet of God. The false prophets always prophesy good, they always speak what people want to hear and tickle their ears with words of comfort. The true prophet speaks the truth and if confronted by an evil man seeking to do his own evil will rather than God’s will – then his words are not going to be encouraging…So Micaiah tells the truth. But he goes on to explain what God revealed to him

·      22:19-23. So here again we see that God has a heavenly host, a heavenly counsel who are summoned and appear around his throne from time to time. Not all these beings are good, some are willing to lie and deceive, but even they do so only with God’s permission to accomplish God’s purpose. God’s purpose in this case is to bring the rule of a very wicked king to an end. If you go on to read the account, Ahab disguises himself so that nobody would know he is the king but 22:34 says one soldier drew his bow at random, he fired a random shot and it hit the right man at exactly the right spot, at the very place where his armour had a join and the dogs licked up his blood in vs 38 exactly as had been predicted by the Word of the Lord.

·      Here we see that Satan’s strategy is still to lie and deceive, to distort God’s Word and lead God’s people astray to their own destruction.

·      Spiritual warfare is all about a battle for truth against the deceptions of the devil. To believe and stand in the truth.

·      We also see that behind the work of Satan lies the wisdom of a sovereign God who only allows him to do that which would ultimately show God’s glory and strengthen the faith of God’s people.

The reality of satan, the sovereignty of God, the battle for truth


4: the victory of jesus (LK 4)

This Spiritual battle obviously finds its climax in the ministry of Jesus as the God man, the one who came to earth for the express purpose of defeating Satan and sin.

·      4:1 The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. Again we see the devil doing evil but only under the providential control of God, God allowed and even purposed this temptation. From what we have learned, we can assume God is doing this to strengthen Jesus’ faith and the devil is doing this to weaken it. We can assume the temptation will revolved around a twisting of the truth, and that is exactly what we find.

·      4:2 Jesus is fasting and praying, feeding his faith rather than his body. And the devil tries to twist this into an occasion to sin. Note in vs 3 he is called the “tempter” the one who entices us to sin.

·      3-4 He tempts Jesus to use his divine power to satisfy his own personal desires. Instead Jesus quotes from Deut 8 where God had put Israel in the dessert and instead of them trusting him to provide, they grumble and complain.

·      5-8. Then he tempts Jesus to shortcut his mission. Jesus would gain the kingdoms of the world by way of the cross and Satan offers him an easier way. False worship is ultimately what he is after, the worship that belongs to God alone. He hates the fact that God alone is God and none are worthy of worship.

·      It seems that his fall began with a desire to become like God and he wants us to follow in his footsteps.

·       9-12 He temps Jesus to misuse his privileged position as God’s Son and again Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy to correct the Devil’s twisted theology.

·      Satan knows what God has said and he delights in subtly twisting it in order to try get us to sin. This is how the temptation started in the garden, “Did God really say….” And how it has continued.

·      The main highways for temptation are the temptation to seek pleasure, prominence and material wealth and power. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life.

·      Jesus resists him with the truth.

·      13 but note that the devil is just biding his time, looking for the right opportunity. As Peter puts it, “the devil is like a hungry lion, always on the hunt, looking for prey.”

·      So this sets the stage for Jesus public ministry. He is the one who from the outset succeeded where Adam and Eve and Israel had failed.

·      The conflict will escalate and climax in the cross where the devil would be fully and finally defeated.

·      Col 1….


That’s what the gospels are all about – the comprehensive victory of Jesus of sin and Satan.

When our charismatic brothers draw their The gospels and acts were never written to provide a manual for spiritual warfare. They were never meant to teach us how to engage in conflict with the devil. They are meant to show us how Christ engaged him and defeated him where all others failed. Our charismatic brothers are missing the whole point when


A summary of spiritual warfare

Although the Bible doesn’t contain many explicit passages on spiritual warfare, a consistent picture emerges right from O.T to N.T as we observe it taking place.

·      Spiritual warfare is not between Satan and God. Satan is no match for God. As the Westminster statement puts it, God’s wisdom, power, holiness and justice are eternal, infinite and unchangeable.  There’s nothing that Satan can do to God, so his strategy is to try tempt God’s creatures and especially people who have been created in His image to know God, worship and serve Him.

·      Satan has great power to influence and control armies, nations, nature, and disease in order to further his purposes. We are no match for his power, the Bible never shows people engaging in any kind of power struggle with Satan.

·      Though he has great power, and a measure of freedom on earth, yet he doesn’t have limitless power and freedom, he is always limited to what God allows.

·      God allows Satan to do evil in order to accomplish good. Satan is seeking to twist the truth of God and weaken the faith of believers, so that we sin against God. God uses Satan to reveal His glory and strengthen our faith so we walk in obedience.

·      The battle is over truth, Satan is resisted by trusting in what God has said rather than our own wisdom, or what our fallen flesh desires.

Example Eph 6

One last example to illustrate these points.

·      6:10 We are no match for Satan, He can only be resisted by the strength that God provides

·      6:11 Satan is a “schemer.” His main strategy is not physical battle or direct battle, but subtle temptation and deception. To temp us to sin by twisting the truth and misdirecting our faith. To distort God’s Word.

·      6:12 Spiritual warfare is real and Satan has a host of fallen angels who are in the ranks of his army. Our main enemy is not people, but the evil that lies behind those evil people.

·      13-18 God has provided gospel armour for the battle. The helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, sure footedness that comes from standing in the gospel.

·      16 Satan is resisted by taking up the shield of faith, by standing firm in the truth and not allowing us to be drawn away by his deceptions and by depending on God’s strength in prayer.

·      This is the most comprehensive passage on spiritual warfare in the whole bible and it says nothing about rebuking Satan, or casting out demons, or engaging in direct combat with him

·      We are told to focus on the truth, particularly gospel truth and to speak to God about Satan rather than speak to Satan about God.


So where does all this deliverance ministry come from that forms the backbone for how so many charismatic churches deal with Satan? The theology of the Bible concerning Satan seems to be consistent and clear and it has nothing to do with taking authority over Satan, driving out demons, breaking curses. So where does all that come from?

It comes from misunderstanding what is happening in the gospels and Acts. From constructing a theology from unique historical events and applying them directly to us without thought for their context or purpose in their own context.

So next week I want to look at some of the accounts of demon possession in the gospel and Acts to try and reconcile it with the theology we get from the rest of Scripture about Spiritual warfare.