Spiritual Warfare According to GRACE
The Elements of Victory
Victory over the flesh could be summarized in one word: RECKON. Romans Chapter Six, the manual on defeating the flesh, is all about what a Christian is to reckon, meaning to count to be true. The saint who understands what Christ accomplished, and believes God in regard to his always-available victory, can swiftly put away temptation and be Christlike, regardless of his circumstances. He reckons (counts) to be true what God says is true. When he does, he is holy.
But I Don’t Have a Problem
Doubtless there are some who imagine that spiritual warfare looks like a scene from a horror movie, with screaming girls and spinning heads. Such a person might think, “I haven’t killed anyone, cheated on my spouse, or beat my kids. I don’t think this applies to me.” Okay, you’re not as bad as you could be, but are you as holy as God? Because that is what he has called us to be:
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Pet 1:15-16, see also Lev 20:7)
If I am not sure that I am spiritually free from the influence of my flesh and living according to God’s will for me, I could ask myself questions like these: Do I have “the patience of a saint” in traffic? Do I walk through most days filled with joy and thankfulness to God? Do I desire the pure gold of God’s word more than anything? Do I share the Gospel whenever possible? Would others describe me as completely sold out to Jesus to the exclusion of nearly every other earthly pursuit? No one alive can say, “Yes,” to such things all the time, but a maturing Christian will find that such things increasingly characterize his life. His yieldedness to Christ’s work in him is more consistent, more visible, and more enjoyable as he goes through life.
…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Cor 3:17b)
Regardless of which enemy is attacking, the fact is that every Christian has already been made able to defeat it. Yes, it is true; from the moment we believe the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, we are already free not to sin because salvation has ongoing benefits. After initial salvation, the Gospel of Christ continues to save us from sin, by faith. That truth could be the end of this book; when tempted to sin, believe that you do not have to sin and don’t; end of story! And yet, the letters to the church are about Christians who are sinning, believing false teaching, and not using what they have in Christ. So why does there seem to be a disconnection between what the Bible says about us and how we actually live?
There are several reasons for the gap which Christians often see in themselves and in others when comparing those observations to what the Bible describes about Christian living. By faith in the promises of God, a Christian can be Christ-like in his motives, attitude, actions, and words. Normal Christian living should feel peaceful, calm, stable, drama-free, anxiety free, and wholesome. It is meant to be filled with love and kindness, patience and forgiveness, and biblical wisdom and knowledge. The lack of these qualities indicates the influence of a spiritual enemy. If a Christian does not know what God has promised him, if he cannot recognize an enemy attack or does know what weapons he has at his disposal, the gap between scriptural words and earthly experience will remain. The saint who studies to gain a deeper knowledge of God’s word and applies what he learns will see the scripture/experience gap vanish.
The first enemy that must be mastered is the one on the inside – the flesh. Galatians 5:22-23 lists several aspects of spirituality, and is followed by this statement:
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Gal 5:24)
The previous verse tells us that the flesh must be effectively “dead” in regard to Christian living. This requires that we use weapons (instruments, tools) provided by God to render the flesh powerless. Consider the fact that many occupational positions have tools particular to their profession. So too, Christians have tools that belong to our position in Christ. These are to enable us to operate in a way that is worthy of the exalted position that we have been given.
The Christian’s primary tool is knowledge: Christianity is a relationship with God based on knowing. God put in writing those things which He wants us to know. Eternal life is even defined as knowing Him (Jhn 17:3). It remains true that victory is simply by God’s grace, through faith, as is all of Christian living. But victory is inestimably more attainable when a Christian thoroughly understands the “what” and the “how” of spiritual warfare under grace. The victorious saint must:
Know the nature of his own flesh so as to recognize an attack.
Understand the battle that is happening inside himself, by knowing the operation of the law of sin in the members of the body (the body parts).
Know the solution: to reckon to be true those things that were granted to us in spiritual baptism.
The Necessity of Using the Tools Given to the Church
A Christian who learns to be spiritual and lives accordingly will rapidly become the object of spiritual attack. A Christian’s faith in and understanding of grace principles appropriates the powerful spiritual blessings that were won for him on the cross. These blessings are not found outside the teachings of the doctrines of grace; they are the spiritual blessings to the church which were kept secret until after the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 2:7-8, Ro 16:25). Only the doctrines of the church can defeat the enemies of its members.
We, the authors, decided to write a book about spiritual warfare according to grace in order to help Christians prepare for the realities of spiritual life. Many “spiritual warfare” materials attempt to access the authority and miraculous powers of Jesus Christ and the Apostles from the first century period of signs and wonders. This will not work. We believe that Satan sometimes ceases his attack when such attempts are made. Why? In order to make a defunct method appear to work – for the greater victory of keeping people deceived. But ultimately, there will be no spiritual fruit from attempting to reproduce miracles which were intended to prove to the Jewish nation that their earthly, Davidic kingdom was at hand.
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils... (Mat 10:5-8a)
Those who had the authority to cast out demons also were able to heal on demand with a 100% success rate, raise the dead, handle dangerous snakes without risk, drink poison with no effect, and multiply food; this is clearly not the current program. Furthermore, Jesus’ miracles were not random selections; feeding, healing and casting out demons were kingdom signs. They foreshadowed the conditions of that one-thousand-year period when the curse will be rolled back; the kingdom will have no sickness, no hunger, and Satan will be bound in a pit. By avoiding this very important contextual information, some teachers encourage the saints to directly contend with demons. Doing so is absolutely not for the church. Paul and the other epistle writers never instruct Christians to do so. Rightly dividing the word of truth is imperative for spiritual victory.
According to Grace and Only by Faith
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrew Christians repeatedly reminded the saints that what we have in Christ is better than what they left behind in Judaism. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Before the resurrection of Christ, the best that could be done was to cast out a demon who could return. The person was without protection because he was not indwelt by God nor sealed with the Holy Spirit. Christians have no need to cast out demons; we have the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation! When a person hears and believes the message of the cross, he receives immediate deliverance and protection. Furthermore, God does not discriminate between persons for any reason other than their own desire to reject Him. Nowhere does it say that a person who is being disturbed, oppressed, or possessed by demons cannot believe the Gospel. There is no biblical instruction to “deliver” a person in order for them to be saved; adding any such requirement to the Gospel is in itself a denial of its power unto salvation.
The wiles of the devil are subtle, and the susceptibility of the human mind to deception is enormous. The importance of knowing the truth according to grace cannot be overstated. The same is true of operating by faith; the Christian life operates by no other means. No Christian is stuck with “This is just my personality,” “This is how I was raised,” “I’ll never get over this,” or any other reason for believing that consistent spiritual maturity – i.e., Christlikeness – is not possible. Grace is sufficient. A Christian must possess this conviction for spiritual victory against any enemy.
Because each of us lives in a body tainted with sin, we will not live in perfect spiritual freedom, but he who is convinced that God’s will is better than anything offered by the world, the flesh, or the devil, and endeavors to learn it, can live consistently as a mature, spiritual man, bringing glory to God in daily living. This begins with learning to live free from the swamp of sin known as “the flesh.” He who does will triumph in Christ, and by doing so, lead many out of the coming fire.
And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 1:23)