Thursday, September 28, 2023



Satan is like a roaring lion  (1 Peter 5:8) 
(Picture: Namibian desert lion- please don't kill them!)

As we speak, the world’s attention has been drawn away from the war against the invisible Covid virus to the current Russian war against her cousins – the Ukrainians.   Our world is always at war in one form or the other. There have been at least 250 wars [1] since the end of WW II in 1945. 

Why are there so many wars? The answer is complex at one level, but essentially the answer   to this question is not very difficult.  The fall of man into sin is the origin of all conflict and war.   There is a far greater war  out there  than  those that we see  withour own eyes  daily portrayed in the social media .

The greater  war   which we are referring to is  a war  conducted  in this world  from the realm of the unseen, and to which Ephesians 6:10-20  draws our attention.  This  war   is conducted at the  level of  spiritual  deceit.  Paul calls  this  ‘the schemes of the devil’[3] .  Most people  do not recognise  that there is this great war behind all  the wars  which we find in the world.

Now let us be quick to affirm, that the fact that devil is in the detail, does not absolve  mankind  from its  responsibility in the matter.  The Bible for instance teaches that  we give  Satan  a foothold when we  engage in mindless anger (Eph. 4:27). What we need to grasp is that Satan is an opportunist, quickly exploiting our human weaknesses. Satan gets into our systems just like a virus enters into a computer, and just as a  virus or bacteria enters  into our bodies. Once we open a door to him, and once he is in, he causes havoc. 

We also need to understand that devil does not work haphazardly but methodically[4] and systematically. He works methodically against the primary institutions created by God, namely  (i) marriage and the family (ii) the church and  (iii) the state and the nations.  He conducts a continuous and subversive war against all these God created institutions.

Therefore it is necessary that we should understand his methods.  We must understand  the Bible’s  counsel  on how to  resist  and stand firm against the devil – and against his  hirelings,  which the Bible  in Paul's letter to the Ephesians  calls,   

the rulers,  the authorities,  the cosmic  over this present darkness… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places …” (6:12).

We must understand that we need more than human ingenuity and strength to stand against such an enemy.  We must learn that we need the full armour of God, so that we may be able to stand our ground against these evil forces in the heavenlies.

So where do we begin?  We begin by  getting behind the biblical worldview! 

There Is An Ultimate Enemy Behind All Evil

  • He is revealed to us here as the devil - a personal being. He is not simply an abstract force or power. 
  • He is the father and the source of all evil. He is a powerful being. He is a created, but fallen angel who has rebelled against God (we don’t know why, how and when). He leads the universal rebellion against God.
  • He has many names in the Bible besides ‘Satan’- his most common name. This name is mentioned 52x in the Scripture and it means 'adversary'. 35 times he is called the ‘devil’ (Gr. ‘diabolos‘ -  lit. slanderer). Other names used of him are prince of this world (Jn. 16:11); prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2); god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4); Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Lk. 11:15).
  • He is superhuman in his power, which means that he cannot be ordinarily resisted by mankind. And yet he is not divine. He is a created being. He has a kingdom/dynasty (Eph. 2:2).
  • He has servants and followers, described here in Eph. 6:12. These beings, we are told, are not made of flesh and blood (i.e. of human substance); they are metaphysical beings. They are not seen with the naked eye, and yet they exist just as surely as electricity and gamma rays (which are not seen with the naked eye) exist.

The evidence of evil is everywhere and in every age.  By their evil Satan and his servants manipulate politicians, systems  and institutions, the church and even Christians. 

The devil’s chief desire is extinguish the true church. He hates her, because she is  God's   greatest  weapon on earth  against  his evil designs. He hates the church because  he  hates Christ, who by the  the cross  overcame  the power of sin and death, by which principle Satan is enabled to hold humanity in his grip. 

This Fallen World Is A Battleground And Not A Playground. 

This world is a restless place by virtue of sin entering into our world through Satan’s agency (Gen. 3:1) and man’s complicity (Gen. 3:6-7).

The fruit of this most tragic event is seen in the language of Genesis 3:14-19. Mankind originally created for a life of peace and harmony under God rule has now tasted of the knowledge of good and evil.

Conflict and disagreement become the order of the day. In Genesis 4 we find Cain killing his  brother Abel, and  Cain walks away from the presence of the LORD (Gen. 4:16). Conflict, murder and war now dominates the histories of the Old and New Testaments. It dominates the histories of all civilizations. The Lord Jesus made this point specifically in His Olivet discourse (Matthew 24 &25), namely that a sign of the end of the ages would be the fact that there would be wars and rumours of wars (Matt.24:6-7). The Revelation of John points us in a similar direction. The war in the heavens in Revelation   translates into war on earth when Satan, the great dragon, and his angels are thrown down to earth, thus inciting a rule of hatred and warfare, particularly after  the event of the  cross of  Christ.

So then, it is important that we understand what is behind the notion of war.

It starts with a fallen angel who is at war with God. It starts in the heavenlies. At face value  however wars start  in our own  sinful hearts. Satan captitalises  on these. Listen to what James 4:1-2 says,

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”  

Then James goes right to the root and he says that this mentality is born out of an attitude. He calls it “enmity with God” (Jas.4:4). That enmity began with Satan’s rebellion against God in Genesis 3. This is the vital link  to Ephesians 6:10-20.

So then, the real reason behind all wars is not simply disagreements between people, rulers and nations, although that is true. 

War is not just about  armies   fighting each other for whatever reason given, although that is true. 

The ultimate reason for any war is a spiritual reason, instigated by an evil principality, using the fallen nature of mankind to get into our systems. Therefore we must not just see war as two parties levelling the score until they  fall down exhausted in terms of what that war produces. When we speak about war we must not forget to speak about its  fundamental problem, which is a spiritual problem, and if a spiritual problem, then we must understand that more than loss of life is at stake. The foundations for  gospel ministry and gospel living is at stake!  For this reason also  the apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2,

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 

Every war threatens the soul’s peace.  Our real desire for peace should be based upon the further desire to have the fullest opportunity to live a holy and godly life, and to be able to build ourselves up in the faith.  The shedding of much blood has awful consequences in terms of a nations’ loss of spiritual peace. Just think about the terrible collective guilt the German soul has borne following the 2nd world war. Just think what guilt the Russian collective soul must now bear for this senseless war on its Ukrainian cousins. This will not go away easily.  

Satan and his accomplices will do everything to make us not live in peace, so that we cannot think about the gospel. He will do everything for a nation to live in fear and horror, for in so doing he removes our ability to be united in worship and prayer. 

War is one of his best used tools, and you  dear  Christian are  exhorted  in the Scripture to, "fight the  good  fight" (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12); to  “not grow weary and loose heart”  (Hebr.12:3); “to resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jas 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8,9)

The apostle Paul warned the elders of this same church at Ephesus  in Acts 20: 29 - 31:   

“29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears". 

Part of the church's ministry is to warn the flock  continually not to play in the devil’s backyard. Carelessness and sin kills relationships. It starts wars.  It must be understood therefore, that behind many of the wicked people  and  their institutions in this world, there is a manipulative power. What evil and disobedient men & women do not realize is that they are manipulated. They are pawns in the hands of the kosmokraton (lit.' kosmocrats - worldrulers'). This fact does not hold people innocent in the eyes of God. They cannot say,  “We are pawns in his hands; the devil made me do it". Christians sometimes also unwittingly have been tools of the devil. We are responsible to resist the devil (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet.5:9). We are commanded not to give the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27). We must resist him; we must withstand him.   We are at war.

We Must Have The Right Perspective On This Spiritual War. 

The call to resist Satan and his hostile forces does not begin with an inward look. Lay the thought aside that you should be able to resist the devil in your own strength.

The call to resist Satan also does not begin with an  outward look.   You may be tempted to think - "well as long as those around me are  strong in the Lord, and as long as our elders pray for us  and  fight our spiritual  battles,  keeping the devil at bay, and the church at peace, I will be  all right". Do not be fooled!  And do not depend on the elders to keep this church free from Satan’s attacks. None of these are strong enough to resist Satan. The church together is God’s army.

The call to resist Satan begins with the upward look. Take note of these words, “Be strong in the LORD, and in the strength of HIS might. Put on the whole armour OF GOD...  that you may be able to stand!“  (6:10,11). Here is the ruling principle of  that most basic discipline of  not  giving the enemy a foothold: Be strong in the LORD, and  in the strength  of HIS might.

Be strong’ (Gr. ‘endunamoo’) - the verb here is in the passive voice: literally this should read "be continually strengthened" (i.e. receive strength). We do not have the strength to resist Satan in ourselves. We are called to depend on the Lord for the supply of that strength. This battle cannot be fought in our own strength. The Lord, as in Joshua's day  or Jehoshaphat's day must fight the battle  for us.

The only way in which we can successfully wage war against the devil’s methods is by employing  God’s methods. Any other way with which to stand against the devil is useless.  We cannot fight the battle against Goliath in Saul’s armour. We need a smooth stone well directed  by  God into the devil’s forehead. That is the only way to deal with Satan!  Spiritual warfare is only ever waged successfully in the Lord and in His mighty power.  The smallest, most insignificant Christian boy can slay Goliath with a slingshot, if he has God on His side- by means of prayer.  

William Cowper[5] wrote:

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;

Prayer makes the Christian’s armour bright;

And Satan trembles when he sees,

The weakest saint upon his knees.


Thomas Brooks in his excellent book,  Precious remedies against Satan’s devices, writes,  “Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts and Satan’s devices are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. It is my work as a Christian to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature and the snares of the great deceiver”.

If you like me find these days  of  war and rumours of war depressing  and alarming  then I invite you now to turn with me  to seek the help  and the promises of God as we committ these things to God in prayer. 

We do not have the mental or intellectual capacity to figure what is ultimately going on in the unseen  realm, and in the realm of deep politics. Our own strength and intellect is like using a peashooter to kill an elephant!

We need superhuman wisdom and superhuman tools to deal with this realm. Thank God that He has not left us uninstructed or without a word in this matter. I hope to address this in my next  article. 

[2] I am substituting the slaves – masters relationship here for a more modern context

[3] Gk.  ‘methodeias tou diabolou’

[4] 2 Cor. 2:11  “… so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”  (Gr. methodeias)

[5] English poet and hymnodist (1731–1800)

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