Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 12, 2000
This morning I want to speak to the issue of Spiritual Warfare. Several years ago when I
preached through the book of Ephesians I spent 13 weeks on the subject. I do not intend to repeat that,
you can pick up the tapes if you would like, but I do want to spend enough time in this subject to remind
you of who our enemy is and how we are to stand firm against him. This subject is important because
spiritual warfare really does involve our daily lives. There is much confusion and even nonsense given
out about spiritual warfare, but there does not need to be. In the next couple of weeks I hope to clarify
what God’s word says about it.
In Ephesians 6:10 Paul address this topic saying, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and n the
strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the
schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the
Please understand from the start that each one of us is involved in a spiritual battle and that this
battle is more substantial than any other conflict on earth. The battles of men revolve around land,
money, power. This often invisible battle is for the eternal souls of men. I want you to understand this
war we are in and how it is to be fought so that you can have victory.
Our tendency is to think of this spiritual war in terms of the spectacular manifestations of overt
occultism such as witches, spell casting, frightening creatures, apparitions, psychic phenomena, etc., but
in reality, most of our war with Satan and his hosts are fought in the ordinary mundane things of life. We
must be careful that we are not lead astray, and there is much around us that would seek to lead us astray.
There are those that present this warfare in such a way as to overwhelm us and thus make us
afraid to enter into the battle lest we be overcome by that which we do not understand. There are other
things that go to the opposite extreme and downplay the reality of this war into fun and games. The end
result being that we do not take this warfare seriously. Both of these approaches are lies and distortions
of the truth. They are tactics of our enemy to keep us from fighting this holy war and being victorious.
One of my great frustrations as a pastor and one of the great tragedies in American Christianity is
how much the theology of most people is not based in the Scriptures. Too much of what even Christians
believe are based in some other book or magazine they have read, or on some movie or television show
they have seen. This is particularly true in this area of spiritual warfare.
The secular entertainment media has portrayed the involvement of the supernatural in the lives of
humans in most every way except Biblically. It has tried to fill us with fear with its imaginative portrayal
of the power and activity of Satan and his cohorts. It has also tried the opposite approach of belittling the
reality of Satan and the demonic as either mythological or humorous. Let me give you a few examples.
There are the classic horror stories that revolve around some evil thing that is trying to harm the
innocent. The Mummy and his ancient evil curse. The Werewolf, a man who changes into a predatory
beast, that would eat you. Vampires that suck out the blood from terrorized victims. Frankenstein, a
science experiment gone astray, leaving you with the question of who knows what your body parts may
do after you die? All of these were to frighten the reader or the audience with things that were both evil
and beyond understanding. The Freddy Kruger and Alien films as well as the writings of Stephen King
are of the same genre. Some evil thing will get you.
There are also the stories that strike a little deeper and harder. These present evil creatures that
are not physical, but are supernatural themselves or rely on supernatural powers. Ghosts, demonic
creatures, witches, and magical religions. The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Rosemary’s Baby,
Poltergeist and their genre leave you wondering how you are to protect yourself. These movies mix
distortion of the real spiritual battle with imagination. They are a mixture of truth and error. They are
also the more frightening. They leave you not wanting to have any involvement with spiritual things, or
worse, you pick up the idea that your protection will come from some magical formula or object used in
the story. The upheld cross that kept Dracula at bay. Cloves of garlic around your neck to protect you
from the evil creature. (A garlic necklace would probably protect you from most people getting too
close to you!). The horror genre of literature and films continues in its classic vein, but it has also
become more subtle in shows such as “The X Files” in which you can never quite identify the evil thing.
Let me give you a quick note of caution here about this genre of literature and films. Vampires,
werewolves, living mummies and Freddy Kruger are not taken seriously by any reasonable adult, but
many reasonable adults do take seriously a lot of the implications and superstitions based on them and
those become part of their lives. Also, please understand that children can be strongly affected by any of
this stuff. They do not have the capacity to separate reality and fantasy like an adult should be able to do.
So you need to be very careful here and censor what your children watch, and that includes some of the
Disney stuff too.
The entertainment industries will also approach occultic practices and spiritual creatures in other
ways. They will be viewed humorously in comedy and satire films & literature. Remember Bewitched &
Ghost Busters? Both generated later spin offs and humorous approaches to the demonic in other media
outlets. New age ideas and the occultic are now fairly common elements in T.V. comedy because they
have also become mainstream in our culture. Sometimes the demonic is portrayed in a positive manner
such as in the classic the Ghost and Mrs Muir and the current shows “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” and
“Charmed.” Children’s cartoons are not exempt. It ranges from the relatively innocent “Casper, the
Friendly Ghost,” and the comedy in Scooby Doo to the occultic practices used in Master’s of the
Universe. Even Smurfs & Care Bears rely on magical spells or objects as does Pokemon. Hours could be
spent describing just the occultic elements in children’s toys.
My point is that the secular media outlets present the spiritual battle to either extreme. It is
something real to be afraid of, or something fabricated to laugh at. In either case, the true nature of what
is real is distorted. If we base our beliefs on something other than the Scriptures, then we will have a
distorted vision of reality. We will not be able to be respond properly. We will be easy picking for the
Devil, who goes about as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). If you are not prepared
he will get you!
How many of you have been affected by the general beliefs of our society that are actually
superstition? And how many of you discount our laugh at real spiritual activities? For example. Do you
believe in ghosts? Are ghosts real? No, but demonic apparitions and manifestations are real. Do you
believe in magic? No, but Demons do posses considerable power and can do supernatural things.
Witches and other occultists can tap into demonic activity to cast so called “magic.” It is not magic. It is
demonic. There is not “good – white” magic, and “bad – black” magic. There is only demonic activity
within “magic” (I am not referring to the slight of hand of “magic” shows). Formulas, special
concoctions, and objects are not magical in themselves for either for evil or defense of evil. All of it is
only powerful as it is empowered by demons. Do you believe in “lucky or unlucky items.” How many
people do you know that have a “lucky” rabbits foot (not so lucky for the rabbit), a lucky penny, a
crucifix, “power” crystals, St. Christopher, etc. or they avoid Black cats, Friday the 13th, and graveyard
There are many professing Christians who are caught up in this type of stuff. Within the
Evangelical camp, many people are caught up in sensationalism. Frank Peretti’s books, This Present
Darkness, & Piercing the Darkness written a decade ago are a case in point. While I am grateful that
these books awakened the Christian community to the fact that there is a real spiritual battle, and that
many Christians were stirred back to prayer. The theology taught in his novels are not helpful. They
distorted the true nature of spiritual warfare. Peretti was an Assembly of God pastor before a fiction
writer and his theology of angeles, demons and prayer is in keeping with the AOG, but not sound
Peretti describes a demon as a “a bug, a bat, a black, bulb-eyed thing, its dark wings whirring, its
breath pouring out like a long yellow ribbon. It just couldn’t fly fast enough, but clawed the air with its
spidery arms, desperate for speed and shrieking in total panic.” Other demons are describes as: “a long,
slithering spirit” another as “a loud-mouthed, boasting imp.” Angels are described as: “a brilliant
comet with wings of fire tracing a glimmering trail and a sword of lightning outstretched in burly bronze
Perreti describes a battle between a demon and an angel: “The black thing and the comet shot
into the sky over Bacon’s Corner, zigzagging, shooting this way and that like wild fireworks. Then the
forest, like a row of cannons, spewed out more hideous creatures, at least twenty, each one fleeing in
utter panic with a dazzling, flaming figure tenaciously on its tail, scattering in all directions like a crazy
metro shower in reverse. The first demon was running out of tricks and maneuvers; he could feel the
heat of the warrior’s blade right at his heels. He spit over his shoulder, ‘No, turn away, I am going!’ The
fiery blade cut an arc through the air, the demon met it with his own and the blow sent him spinning. He
corrected with his wings, turned and faced his assailant, shrieking, cursing, parrying blow after blow,
looking into the fiery eyes of more power, more glory, more holiness than he’d ever feared before. And
he could see it in those eyes – the warrior would never turn away. Never. The demon withered even
before the blade struck its final blow; it slipped from the earth, from the world of mankind, into outer
darkness, gone in a tumbling puff of red smoke.”
An exciting story and great fiction, but not proper theology. Where in Scripture are demons
described as ugly, grotesque creatures? Demons are fallen angels, Satan is described as appearing as an
angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Where in the Bible do you have Angels and Demons fighting in this
manner or that a demon, when struck by a sword, is vanquished in a puff of red smoke. Angels are
eternal creatures. What descriptions there are of their fighting seems to be wrestling and not sword play.
We also have to be very careful that we do not reduce our prayers to magical formulas. i.e. if I
pray this certain thing in this certain way, then this will happen. Prayer is personal communication with
the living God, not an incantation. Do you really think you are able to manipulate God to get what you
want? Praying in the “name of Jesus” is not a magical formula that forces God to give to you what you
want. It means to ask in accordance with what Jesus would want. God is not obligated by your ability to
repeat certain words. I need to be careful from letting my prayers be reduced to formulas and magical
incantations. I must instead remain in humble communication with the Living God.
I cannot stress enough that our ideas and beliefs about spiritual warfare must arise from the Bible
itself, and not the sensationalism of fiction writers, even Christian ones, or any of the material put out by
the media. If we do not know the truth and live according to it, then we are easy prey for our adversary.
What then is real? What is false? What is the true nature of this Holy War? It is both sensational
and subtle. There are aspects of it that are beyond us, and there are aspects that are around us attacking
us quietly and un-obtrusively. Lets begin preparing ourselves properly for spiritual warfare by make sure
what Paul says here in Ephesians 6:10-12.
Verse 10 begins, “finally.” The sense here is not, “this is the last thing in my letter,” though it is
the last major topic of the letter. It is with the sense, “as for what you still have to do in addition to the
rest already mentioned.” At what still has to be done? – “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His
If we think through Ephesians and all that God has already done for us, it is not unreasonable for
us to find our strength in Him. After all, it is God that chose us before the foundation of the world for
Salvation (1:4). He redeemed us through the bloody, sacrificial death of Jesus and extended forgiveness
of our trespasses and sin through Christ (1:7). He also gave us the Holy Spirit as His pledge of His
promises to us (1:13,14). Our very life is due to Him since we were dead in our sins but He made us
alive with Christ, and the Lord did so purely because of His gracious love toward us (2:1-100).
Everything that God commands us to do is both reasonable and an avenue of being strengthened for our
battle with our adversary, the devil, and his demonic host. Using our spiritual gifts for the building up of
one another (4:11-16), living righteous lives (4:17-32), being in submission to the Holy Spirit and
singing God’s praises (5:15-20) as well as having proper relationships within the family and on our jobs
(5:21-6:9) all put us in a better position to wage the spiritual war we are in. These are all the things we
should already be doing.
Being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might is preliminary to the preparation to battle.
It will do you no good to put on armor and go into battle if you have no source of strength. Can you
imagine some knight of old putting on all that heavy armor and trying to go into battle when he is sick
and weak with the flu? You know what will happen. Despite his armor, he will be cut down by the
enemy very quickly because he will have no strength to lift the shield, move out of harms way with his
feet, or parry the enemies blows with his sword. The preliminary step in preparation for battle is to be
strong. And in the spiritual battle that cannot be strong in our own might. We cannot rely on ourselves. If
the knight of old would be in trouble trying to fight while suffering from the flu, going against the
demonic in your own power is infinitely worse.
An example of this is in Acts 19:13f. There were seven Jewish brothers who went from place to
place trying to cast out evil spirits. They would try to exorcise the demons by invoking the name of
Christ as an incantation saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” In verse 15,16 the evil
spirit responds, “‘I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ And the man, in whom
was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued & overpowered them all, so that they fled out of the
house naked and wounded.” Such is the outcome of going into spiritual battle without being “strong in
the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
In order to be strong in the Lord we have to be abiding in Him (John 15), drawing our life from
Him. This requires trust and obedience to His will. Our ability to do anything for Christ is only because
He has enabled us to accomplish it. Paul says in 2 Tim 1:7 “For God has not given to us the spirit of
fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” That classic passage in Isaiah 40 reminds us,
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the
earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous
young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up
with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Your
strength for the battle comes from the Lord – not yourself.
Paul tells us next in verse 11 to “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm
against the schemes of the devil.” We have to place upon ourselves the panoply, that is, all the armor of
warfare which God provides for us. It is important to understand that the battle armor that we are to put
on is given to us by God. Charles Hodge correctly warned “men have always been disposed to trust [the
arms] which they provide for themselves or which have been prescribed by others. Seclusion from the
world (i.e. flight rather than conflict), ascetic and ritual observances, invocation of saints and angels,
and especially, celibacy, voluntary poverty, and monastic obedience..”. This is the armor of false
religion, not the armor of God.
The reason for the armor is to be able to “stand firm” against the “schemes” of the devil. The
word here, “stand firm” (sthnai from isthmi / istami) is a military term meaning to “hold your
position.” The word translated “schemes” or “wiles” ( meqodeiaV / methodeias) “is the Greek word from
which we get our word “method” from. The slanderer, the Devil, has many methods by which he seeks
to attack people. We are to hold our position against them.
We will talk about the specific ways the Devil attacks us next week, but please note here who we
are to stand firm against. One of the greatest schemes the devil uses against the Church was stated well
by Warren Wiersbe, “We are wasting our time fighting people when we ought to be fighting the devil
who seeks to control people and make them oppose the work of God.”
The devil wants our focus off the spiritual battle and onto personal conflict. This is brought out
again in verse 12 in which Paul clarifies it again that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”.
People are not the problem. Sin and the devil are the problem and if we lose that focus we end up not
just wasting our time and energy, but also being obstructions to the gospel message.
I am fully aware of the grave concern that many of you share with me about the continuing moral
plummet of our nation. Having just completed the general elections, politics are still on our minds.
However, while politics are a factor in this, it is a relatively minor factor. For who gets elected, what
laws are passed and where the money is spent is only a reflection of our society. Of greater concern is the
amorality and immorality of our society. No politician is our enemy and neither is even the most
perverted group in our society. Our adversary, Satan, may be using them, but they themselves are not the
enemy. They are all people created in the image of God just as we are and to whom the offer of salvation
from sin through Jesus Christ is offered.
The same is true when someone personally wrongs you. You may be hurt and justified in being
upset with them for their evil against you. You may also be righteous in striving to bring them to justice,
but they are still not the enemy. They have been used by our enemy, but they are still people our Lord
desires to bring to salvation. If it is another Christian that has wronged you, then even more so, they are
not the enemy, but someone who has allowed themselves to be used by our enemy. We do not win the
spiritual conflict by treating people as our enemies. We win the spiritual conflict by seeing clearly such
people are pawns of our enemy. If we treat people as the enemy, then we play into Satan’s scheme. The
unsaved are our mission field. We seek to win them to Christ.
Conflicts with Christians are to be resolved in a gracious Biblical manner as described in such
passages as 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians 6, and Matthew 18. Encouragement, admonishment and patience
are all part of the Christian life (1 Thess. 5:14). Some conflicts are because of sin in which case the
process of discipline is carried out (Mt. 18:15-17) and a person who will not turn from their sin may
eventually have to be treated as an unbeliever. Many conflicts are just over personal preferences in
which case Christian charity would allow us to agree to disagree and still live in harmony, or it may be
severe enough that there is a peaceful parting. God has used that many times in order to expand His work
(Abraham & Lot; Paul & Barnabas).
My point here is simple. People are not the enemy even when they are antagonistic and perhaps
just plain evil toward us. Our enemy is the one that is behind them. We are to treat people the same what
that Jesus did. We admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak and are patient with
all (1 Thess. 5:14).
The devil is scheming, methodical, in trying to find our weak areas so that he can attack us. That
is why we need the full compliment of the armor of God. We will talk about the various pieces of this
armor next week. We also need it because Satan has a well organized horde of demonic followers. Verse
12 goes on to say that our struggle is “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of
this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The KJV translates here, “we wrestle,” and that is a good description of our struggle. The
language here is that of is face to face combat. Hand to hand fighting. This is front line action. You
cannot sit back somewhere and shoot objects at the enemy who is miles away. I fear that sometimes we
think of prayer in that manner – shooting out a prayer to hold the enemy who is miles away at bay. The
truth is we are being attacked on the personal level, and we had better be prepared to both defend
ourselves and go on the offensive.
Paul divides the demonic host into ranks. Rev. 12:4 indicates that a third of the Angels fell and
followed Satan. This is a vast army, and it is organized. Here this organization of this horde is described
as 1. Principalities or rulers. 2. Powers or forces. 3. World-forces of this darkness. & 4. Spiritual forces
of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Some have tried to specify the abilities and duties of each of these ranks. Frankly, I don’t know
and I not concerned about that. The Bible does not give detail on these matters. We know that a demon
referred to as the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” withstood the angel sent to answer Daniel’s prayer
for 21 days until the angel Michael, called one of “the chief princes,” came to help (Daniel 10:13).
Angles and demons are both ranked, but the exact nature of the ranking and ability of any particular
demon is unimportant to us, for regardless of how high their rank or great their ability, greater is He
who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We need not fear the devil or his demonic hoard,
for if we submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7).
What is important to us is to be aware of the conflict that we are in and respond to it properly.
We will be attacked on a personal level especially targeted to where we are weakest. The goal of the
attack will be to get you to lose faith in God and respond in some sinful manner. Yet God will use this
same attack to strengthen my faith and walk in holiness if I will let Him. I need to do my part and be
prepared for whatever involvement in this spiritual war God calls me too by standing firm in Him. Next
week we will go over the armor that God has given us to that we can do just that.
Remember, we are to stand against the devil and his schemes in God’s power and not our own.
Satan is well organized, but our God is greater. And finally, people are not the enemy regardless of what
evil they do may do against you. Our struggle is with the evil powers behind them, therefore the primary
theater this war is fought in is spiritual. Lets make sure that stays our focus and that none of us plays into
the devil’s hands by being sucked into conflict and treating other people as the enemy. Our goal and
purpose is to live holy lives before God and men and glorify our Lord by making disciples of Jesus
Christ. Will you commit with me to keeping that our focus?
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What thought do you given to Spiritual Warfare in your daily life? What are your initial thoughts about what
spiritual warfare involves? Why is spiritual war more important than physical war? Name some of your own
examples how spiritual war is treated incorrectly by both secular media and some Christians. How do these
fit with Satan’s schemes against you? What myths have you been led to believe? What are demons? What are
ghosts? What is the power in “magic.” Can “magic” be good? What is the difference between true prayer and
praying as an incantation? What is the source of truth on this topic? Outline the major themes of the book of
Ephesians. How do these things help us stand firm against the Devil? What would happen if you tried to
resist the devil in your own strength? Whose strength must you rely on? In practical terms, how do you rely
on God’s strength? Who is the enemy? How does our enemy use people? How should you treat people who
are used by our enemy? The devil and his demons are organized, what does that tell you about his efforts
against God’s kingdom and against you personally? How do you stand firm against Satan? What is the
armor of God and why is it important? How will you stand firm this week?
Sermon Notes – 11/12/2000 A.M.
Spiritual Warfare: Keeping the Enemy in Focus
Distortions, Superstitions and Aberrant Theology
Strong in the Lord (vs. 10)
Standing against the Schemes of the devil (vs. 11)
Who is our enemy (vs. 12)
Our Enemy’s Organization