In Spiritual Warfare Part I and Spiritual Warfare Part II, we discussed a range of topics, including an overview of spiritual warfare. Part III mainly presents a set of Scripture passages with some comments at the end of this article. The Scripture passages are mostly stand-alone or self-explanatory. It is not necessary to read all of the Scripture passages provided, but it is important to know all of the areas covered by Scripture on the topic of spiritual warfare.
At the end, there is a section on what to do and set of closing remarks. I think that the final topic covered, “discernment” is crucial to the area and is a necessary spiritual gift for Christian groups.
This is not a complete set, but the number of Scripture passages presented in Part III speak volumes. This is a major topic in Scripture and has often not received its due attention. Satan is mentioned in Scripture at the beginning (Genesis 3:1), and he is covered throughout all the way to the end of the Bible (Revelation 20: 7-10). He is not some figment of the ancient imagination but a real enemy of God and his people (Revelation 22:18-19).
The therapeutic pendulum must swing back to where spiritual realities are accounted for in a balanced way.
Some Spiritual Warfare topics in Scripture
1) Kingdoms at War:
- Ephesians 6:12 Our struggle is against the powers of this dark world, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.
- 1 John 3:8b The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
- 1 John 5:19b The whole world is in the power of the evil one.
- Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
- Acts 10:38 …how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.
- 2Timothy 3:12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
- 1Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
- Jude 1:9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
2) We are Equipped to Win
- Luke 10: 17-19 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you….
- James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
- James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The power of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
- 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
3) The Victory is the Lord’s
- Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
- Revelation 1: 17b-18 “…Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades….”
- Revelation. 20: 13-14 And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire….
- John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out…
- Luke 10:17-20 (See #2)
- Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
- Ephesians 4:27 …and give no opportunity to the devil.
- James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
5) Equipment and Weapons
- Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day…gird your loins with truth…put on the breastplate of righteousness…shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace…taking the shield of faith…take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit…keep alert with all perseverance….
- 1Thessalonians 5:8 But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
- 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 …for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and to take every thought captive to obey Christ….
- 1 Corinthians 12:10 …to another the ability to distinguish between spirits…
6) Names, Roles, Disguises of the Enemy
- John 8:44b …He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- 2 Cor.11: 14-15 … for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
- Rev.12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
- Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil…
7) The Devil Has a Plan for Your Life
- 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
- Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…
- Romans 1: 21-22 …for though they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…
- 1Tim. 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…
- 2Tim 2:26 …and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
- 2 Cor. 2:11 …to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
8) Satan and the Heart
- Jer. 17: 9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things; and desperately corrupt…I the Lord search the mind and try the heart…
- Matthew 15:18-19 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man…For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.
- Luke 8:12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved.
- Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
- John 13: 2 And during supper, when the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…
- Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?”
9) We Have Help
- Joshua 5: 13-15 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshipped, and said to him, “What does my lord bid his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
- 2 Kings 6:15-17 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was round about the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “ Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, and said, “O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
10) Obsession, Possession, and Spiritual Healing
- Acts 10: 38 …how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil.
- Matthew 9:32-33 As they were going away, behold a dumb demoniac was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
- Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
- Luke 4:33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice…
11) Satan and the Flesh…the “Natural”
- Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.
- John 6: 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is devil?”
- James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.
- Proverbs 27: 20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.
12) Warfare Realities
- Matt. 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
- Mark 9: 43-48 And if your hand causes you to sin…and if your foot causes you to sin…and if your eye causes you to sin…it is better to enter the kingdom…than to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
- Acts 19:13-16 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of Jesus over those who had evil spirits…the evil spirits answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them…and overpowered them…
- 1Cor. 10:20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.
- 2Cor. 12:7 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
- Eph. 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
- James 2: 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder.
- 2Peter 2:4-9 For if God did not spare the angels…but committed them… to be kept for judgment…if he did not spare the ancient world but preserved Noah…if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes…(he) made them an example…if he rescued righteous Lot…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial.
- 1John 5: 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.
- 1John 3:8 & 10 “He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” “By this it may be seen who the children of God are, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.”
- Luke 13:11 & 16 And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years… “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”
- Eph 4:26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.
- Mk 1:21-27 And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
- John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
- 1Tim 3:6-7 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
- 1 Thess. 2: 18 …because we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, again and again-but Satan hindered us.
- Rev. 6:8 And I saw…a pale horse…it’s rider’s name was Death…and Hades…and they were given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with famine…pestilence and with wild beasts of the earth.
13) Satan as Liar and Deceiver
This is an area where the volume of Scripture passages is massive: some dealing with Satan as liar and/or deceiver, and some dealing with people under his influence lying and deceiving, creating problems for the church and for the world. I have placed more emphasis on the ones dealing with the lying and deception of Satan and his demons.
This is a huge area since lying spirits and spirits of fear seem so common today. Judas was a liar, a thief and he participated in the murder of Jesus: the Satanic trifecta (liar, thief and murderer).
A lying spirit can come on a person suddenly (oppression/external), but if the person succumbs to a pattern of lying it can become an obsession (internal). Most often a lying spirit gets some control over a person after a pattern of lying, and over time becomes a habit that can result in an obsession. A typical pattern might look like:
I exaggerate my qualities and accomplishments;
I diminish other’s qualities and accomplishments;
I lie about my qualities and accomplishments;
I lie about other’s qualities and accomplishments;
I lie about other’s character;
I begin to lose touch with reality and twist events to suit the narrative that I have embraced (victor, victim, dictator, etc.)
If you know a person well enough to observe the pattern above, the best pastoral approach is to challenge and interrupt the pattern early, before an obsession occurs. If you only realize that it’s a lying spirit when it starts to tell lies about you, you are way behind the curve, and it’s likely that many other lives and reputations have been harmed.
- Genesis 3:4-5 The serpent said to the woman, You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
- 2 Cor. 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
- 2 Cor. 11:14 …for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
- John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- Rev. 12:9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
- Rev. 20:3 …and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
- Mat. 6:13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
- 2Tim. 2:26 …and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
- Dan. 8:25 “And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and he will destroy many while they are at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency.
- 2 Tim. 3:13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
- 2 Pet. 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
There are more than forty Scripture passages that deal with discernment: both the spiritual gift and the trained in understanding and knowledge. I have emphasized the ones that more specifically highlight the discernment of good and evil spirits. An experienced disciple will often grow in the “natural” gift of discernment as he grows in the knowledge of God and becomes “wise as the serpents.”
- 1 Cor. 12:10 …to another the ability to distinguish between spirits…
- 1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- Heb. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
- Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Mat. 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
- 1 Tim. 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.
- 1 Kings 3:9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
- Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
- Phil. 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.
What to Do?
- Be careful not to demonize normal human misconduct;
- Be careful when evaluating abnormal conduct;
- Decide to live a biblical way of life;
- Immerse yourself in the Scriptures;
- Pray for the gift of discernment;
- Develop/grow in natural discernment;
- Submit yourselves to God;
- Resist the devil (James 4:7);
- Resists as individuals;
- Resist in small groups;
- Resist in large groups;
- Pray for the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10);
- Pray for and grow in humility (it takes humility to admit to oppression and obsession);
- Be determined to STAND (Eph. 6:11, 13); (The Greek definition for stand is “hold your ground”)
- No matter what your situation, experience or background, determine to identify as a victor;(“Victim” is a demonic strategy that often brings bitterness, anger, or depression)
- Bar your interior “house” with double locks; (“Satan comes through doors that are closed but not locked.” (quote from Velma Bolland)
- Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves;
- When you have done all else, STAND!
Spiritual warfare is a major topic in the Scriptures, but often a minor one in Christian teaching. Healing ministry attracts great crowds; deliverance ministry, not so much. Deliverance ministry has eternal consequences. It is a valid, necessary, and pastoral ministry.
Exorcism, the most serious form of deliverance, is a small part of the Scriptural emphasis on spiritual warfare and demonic activity. Not many of us will encounter it. When considering pastoral work and Christian spirituality in the area of spiritual warfare we will mainly be dealing with temptation, oppression, and obsession.
Both natural and gifted discernment are weapons of spiritual warfare. Natural discernment should be part of the spiritual development of the mature disciple.
Sin can be a complex mix of the world, the flesh and the devil. Knowing the sources of a problem helps to fashion the response and the remedy.
“…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
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Bob Tedesco is the founder of the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where he served as Senior Coordinator for 26 years. He has been involved in lay ministry for over forty-five years, and has served as Regional President of the North American region in the Sword of the Spirit.