First, Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:9–10). He is the adversary. In verb form, his name means “to accuse.” But Jesus bore our sins. They were nailed to the cross. We bear them no more. Christ triumphed in our stead. He disarmed the devil.
Against Satan’s tactic of accusation, we stand firm in Christ’s righteousness. We preach the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves that in Christ there is no condemnation. His righteousness is ours. Satan points out our sin to drive us to despair. The Spirit convicts us of our sin to drive us to the cross.
Second, Satan is a deceiver. When he lies, he speaks his native language. He is the ruler of this world. His lies are proffered by false religious teachers, the pundits of pop culture, and the secular educational establishments offering a secular worldview. Satan employs those still subject to him (2 Thess. 3:2–3; 1 Tim. 4:1–2; 1 John 4:1–6).
But God has given us His truth. His Word is truth. God has given shepherd-teachers to communicate and equip in this truth. Why? Paul told us in Ephesians 4: “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). In Ephesians 5:6–10, Paul cautions us against deception and calls us to discernment (cf. Col. 2:6–8).
Against Satan’s tactic of deception, we are to stand firm in Christ’s truth. We are to follow Christ the truth and the truth of Christ. We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ as the way to destroy strongholds and arguments that would oppose the truth of God (2 Cor. 10:3–5). We are to bring His word to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), that we might walk in truth against the adversary’s lies (Col. 2:6–8).
Finally, Satan is a tempter. He whispers, “Did God really say? Is God really good? Does He really love you?” Satan is the seductress of the book of Proverbs. Spiritual adultery is expressive of spiritual warfare. The enemy woos our hearts. He wants our worship. He urges us to spiritual desertion and seeks to lead us to shipwreck on the rocks of spiritual destruction.
Against Satan’s tactic of temptation, we are to stand firm in Christ’s strength. Dependence on Christ through whom we can do all things is the lesson learned by Paul through the instrumentality of Satan (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Pride is an ally of the evil one and brings us to resist God rather than the devil (1 Peter 5:5b–9).
Undergirding our conduct of spiritual warfare is prayer. Paul’s reference to prayer in Ephesians 6:18 is not a new thought; nor is it another article of armor. Rather, prayer is a buttress. We pray in continual alertness, aware of our enemy, on guard to his schemes (Matt. 26:41). We pray in the Spirit who unites us to Christ. We pray for ourselves and our brethren that we might abide in Christ, standing firm in Him and the power of His redemptive might.
I received a call from a friend planting a church in Kentucky. He knew of my interest in spiritual warfare, and he wanted to tell me a story. His small congregation met for worship in a Methodist church building. Things had gone well. But then the church hit a wall. Conflict started breaking out. Members were falling into sin. My friend spoke with the elderly Methodist pastor, who asked him, “Have you ever thought about spiritual warfare?”
That got my friend thinking and praying and studying. He began to teach and equip his people. They began to pray not only for but against, seeking Christ for His mighty intervention. That’s when the church began once again to move forward, strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
Spiritual warfare cannot be an elective in the curriculum of Christian discipleship; nor can it be neglected by those appointed to lead Christ’s church in kingdom mission.