The first principle we must apply when thinking about spiritual warfare has to do with the Bible, the Bible is our final authority. It tells us what is important and it tells us what is true.
A second basic and important principle that we have to keep in mind as we think about spiritual warfare has to do with God.
I told you these were basic, and this one is definitely that, but if we are going to be clear about spiritual warfare, we have to understand that God is in complete control.
Or to say it another way, there is only one God and the devil is not him.
One of the super huge mistakes people sometimes make when they think or talk about spiritual warfare is to think and talk about it like God and Satan were almost equals and like there’s this battle going on where we don’t really know who is going to win and it is all unsure where maybe evil will get the upper hand and all of that, and it is like they are constantly wondering can God really defeat Satan, and when they talk about spiritual warfare it is kind of like we better do our thing to help God and the angels gain victory over demonic forces.
It is almost like they imagine demonic forces just whirling around up there and over there and they are all out of control and it is just chaos and God’s hoping He can bring it under control and we better find ways to help Him.
When what the Bible teaches us about God and His relationship to the devil and demons is very different.
I can understand if we don’t look at the Bible but we just look at the world and we are trying to figure things out on our own that we might wonder if God is in control, but we don’t have to just look at the world and try to figure things out on our own, because God has revealed what is really happening for us in His Word, as a believer, that’s one of our big advantages, and when God talks about what is really happening in this world, we see that He is most definitely in charge.
There is a little mystery here and so you are going to have to get ready for that.
God is not responsible for evil.
He never sins.
But one of the things that makes God so glorious is that He is using evil, sin and even Satan to accomplish His great and awesome plan.
We can prove that in a number of ways.
First, if we just open up our Bible and start reading through the Old Testament, we are never going to get the idea that Satan is somehow God’s equal. Instead what we see throughout the Old Testament is that God is on His throne and that He is going to accomplish exactly what He wants to accomplish no matter who tries to stand against Him.
It would have been common for example in the days when the Old Testament was written, when a nation lost a battle to another nation, that the people there would think it was because the other nation’s gods were stronger. That was the way people thought. But it’s never the way the Old Testament talks. Instead when Israel lost a battle, the writers of the Old Testament made it clear that even that loss was under God’s control and was accomplishing God’s purpose.
There are some really beautiful passages in the Old Testament in fact when the writers are comparing God with the idols of the nations, which if anything are demonic kinds of forces, and when they compare the one true God with these gods or idols or demons, there is never really any true or valid comparison in their mind.
When Satan is introduced in the Old Testament and it is really not all that often, we only find clear and no doubt kinds of references to Satan in the Old Testament 4 times, but when we do see him throughout the Old Testament, while he is a serious adversary to God’s people, it’s also clear that he has to answer to God.
Job 1, 6.
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came
And God asks Satan what he has been doing.
“From where have you come?”
And Satan answers,
“From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
The idea being that Satan was looking for people to accuse and torment, and God asks Satan to consider Job.
Satan isn’t impressed and Satan says that job is only righteous because it is easy for him and makes the suggestion that if God would take away Job’s prosperity, Job would turn on God.
The obvious implication being that Satan couldn’t do that on his own. He couldn’t touch Job without God’s permission, and it’s only after God gives him permission that he can do anything to Job.
Jesus affirms that truth in Luke 22:31 when he talks to Peter. He says in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat…”
The point being that Satan couldn’t simply sift Peter, he had to go to God for permission to do something like that.
When you think about Satan and God and this war that is going on you always have to keep in mind that there is a fundamental difference between the Creator and his creatures. The Creator, God, knows everything, is all powerful, is able to be everywhere at the same time, but Satan, a creature, is not able to do any of those things.
And one of the things that shows the great wisdom and power of God so clearly is that even as this creature Satan, rages against the Creator God, and even as he tries to do everything in his power to stop God from doing what he wants, he only ends up being used by God to accomplish exactly what he planned in the first place.
One example of that is found at the cross.
In Luke 22:3, Luke says that “Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot…” and goes on to talk about Judas planned to betray Jesus; so obviously Satan was scheming to see Jesus crucified.
But whose plan was he actually accomplishing?
In Acts 2:23, Peter tells us that Jesus was delivered up to be crucified, now listen to this, according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. So of course while Satan thought he was defeating Jesus, God the Father was using Satan to unknowingly exalt Jesus.
We see this kind of thing happening in the early church as well.
This may seem a little more round about, but in the book of Acts the early church in Jerusalem was being persecuted in a fierce way.
Satan of course we know loves to use physical violence in his attack on the church.
But in Acts 8, do you know what happened as a result of that persecution. The persecution of the church actually helped the church fulfill the great commission and they ended up going into all the world, just like Jesus wanted, making disciples of all men.
One final example of how while Satan intends one thing, God uses it to accomplish something else is found in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul had received great revelations from God and because of that he says, to keep him from being conceited, verse 7, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to keep me from becoming conceited.” Now of course, what would Satan want, for Paul to become conceited, but God used that messenger of Satan to do the opposite, to keep Paul humble and you know, when Paul wanted that thorn to go away, he didn’t bind it, rebuke it, stamp on it, he didn’t go to Satan, he says that he pleaded with the Lord that it should leave him, because he of course understood that God was God and the devil was not.
Whatever we think about spiritual warfare and whenever we talk about spiritual warfare, we first need to look to the Bible and allow it to direct us, and when we look to the Bible, we clearly see that it exalts God, not Satan and so we need to be very careful that we don’t talk about spiritual warfare in such a way that does the opposite of what the Bible does, where we end up making too much of Satan and fearing Satan too much and spending all this energy focusing on Satan because of course that’s exactly what he wants.
And practically, you know I sometimes meet Christians who seem like they are so scared of curses and witchcraft and the devil and demons, their whole lives are dominated by this fear, and for people who believe in the God of the Bible, and who believe the God of the Bible is for us, that is really a great tragedy. The Bible says if God is for us, who can be against us, and that means not even Satan can really be against us. If someone puts a curse on me or puts a curse on you, and it happens, you know what I know, I know that even though Satan may be trying to do me harm through that curse, God is going to actually end up using that curse for my long term good, so what do I have to be so afraid about?