Spiritual Warfare

“Two 6 year olds struggled with the problem of the existence of the devil. One boy said, “Oh, there isn’t any devil.” The other, rather upset, said, “What do you mean, there isn’t any devil? It talks about him all the way through the Bible!” the first replied, “Oh that’s not true, you know. It’s just like Santa Claus, the devil turns out to be your dad.”

In recent years, the interest in the spirit world has increased. The increase of spiritualism; New Age movements; eastern mediation and yoga practices are considered fashionable in society and is even publicised by prominent celebrities. Some perceive Christianity as being old fashioned and not exciting.

Hence, Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW) is the invention for bringing animation into the Church. I believe, gone are the days when we used to play cows-boys and Indians, for the Christian and the devil is much more exciting. Hence, making Harry Potter and the Lord of the rings a reality that a supernatural world exists and Christians need to use their authority in possessing this land for the extension of God’s Kingdom. Fairy tale or not, my research would use the Bible as the test apparatus for evaluating the modern day Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW). My objective in the biblical research paper is to determine whether SLSW is Biblical?

Is SLSW just a theory?

C. Peter Wager says, “The hypothesis I am suggesting, then, is … that Satan delegates high ranking members of the hierarchy of evil spirits to control nations, regions, cities, tribes, people groups, neighbourhoods and other significant social networks of human beings throughout the world. Their major assignment is to prevent God from being glorified in their territory, which they do through directing the activity of lower ranking demons.”

The SLSW is only a theory assuming what the spiritual world is like and how it interacts with our everyday lives. It is a highly exciting and astounding taking seriously the reality of spiritual beings and their interest in us. This theory presents that there is a realm of evil spiritual beings actively working to prevent people from coming to God. They who hold this view believe that the most powerful demons are the territorial spirits- high-level demons that control geographical areas and actually prevent evangelism from working in that specific area.

For effective evangelism to go forward the demon would first need to be identified by name and then broken or cast out through arduous prayer rituals (marching, prayer on specific symbolic sites, etc. Demons are held to be able to inhabit individuals (called ‘demonisation’; ‘demon-possession’ is rejected by these authors as a mistranslation).

This can happen to Christians and non-Christians. It comes about through conscious invocation, or past dealings with occult influences. It can also happen inadvertently, through un-repented sin, or owning pagan jewellery or certain types of rock music. These demons can also attach themselves to objects—ornaments, art, and houses. To get rid of them requires ‘deliverance ministry’—the overt identifying, binding and casting out of these demons. Generally, the demons are believed to make people sin, sometimes in quite terrible or violent ways, or at least to fill the Christian’s head with violent or blasphemous thoughts. The Christian at that point is held to he an innocent victim.

Wagner, also identifies a ‘middle level’, asserting that occult activities—tarot, new age, crystals and such, as well as more obviously ‘demonic’ activities such as satan-worship—invoke real evil spirits who then have a level of control over the people involved in the activities. If such people are to become Christian, it takes more than just repentance; the demonic control over them must be broken. This kind of occult activity can also add to the power of a territorial demon over an area.

Where does the basis/source for SLSW come from?

Apart from less than satisfactory dealings with the Bible, some of the authors are quite happy to accept information from pagan and occult practitioners as a basis for their views about what the spiritual world is like. Wagner quotes an ex-satanist as a basis for estimating the number of evil spirits in the world. He also asserts “spiritual insight, which receives information directly from the spirit world, is not an exclusive faculty of those who have been born again”. While he acknowledges the need to test spiritual information, he is confident that “some non-Christians, whether animist shamans, gurus, lamas, philosophersor whatever, may be able to communicate to us some information about the reality of the spirit world in which they have gained considerable expertise”.

George Otis Jr says that his research into spiritual warfare took him to shrines, temples, monasteries, sacred mountains and ancestral graveyards; he has listened to the stories of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, Native American medical men and leading theorists of the New Age movement. While this might be a useful path for a treatise on non-Christian beliefs, it does not sound like a research programme for any kind of biblical Christian ministry.

That is, those who are most steeped in the deception of the devil are taken as sources of reliable information about spiritual matters. Even worse, demons themselves are cited as reliable information; most of these authors use conversations with demons as sources for their information. Although the authors also realise that the devil is the father of lies, and are constantly calling for discernment, it is remarkable that they can advocate taking such information as a basis for developing a right theology. We have moved a long way from biblical truth by this stage.

If SLSW is a fallacy then why are there innumerable testimonies?

“Powlison, a counsellor and lecturer in theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, draws on his experience in counselling many people in a range of situations, including those affected by spiritual warfare theology. Powlison is able to answer one of the most troubling questions that spring to mind as one is reading spiritual warfare books, or speaking to those who accept this theology: what do you do about the stories? There are innumerable anecdotes, often told by respectable and responsible people, about Christians supposedly inhabited by demons. If you were not there yourself, how do you respond?

Powlison, has been there, and answers that he has witnessed a great deal of sincere misdiagnosis. One of the problems, he points out, is not that western Christians do not take the reality of demons seriously (as spiritual warfare proponents claim), but that spiritual warfare Christians does not take the reality of sin seriously. Too often, he has seen cases of Christians struggling with sin who are told that their problem is caused by a demon, and so goes to deliverance counselling rather than following the biblical teaching that we need to work seriously towards being holy.

Powlison demonstrates that the demonisation of the people with whom Jesus came into contact was completely different to the demonisation diagnosed in churches today. Because Powlison also has an understanding of biblical theology, he is able to explain the differences between Jesus’ ministry and our own, as well as the continuities between the two. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about spiritual warfare in evangelical churches, and it is often difficult to discuss the topic without failing into suspicion.”

Spiritual Warfare – It is all in the mind!

The battlefield of our spiritual warfare is the human mind. The passages of scripture, which discuss our spiritual struggle against angelic adversaries, shows that our battle is a mental one. It is the struggle to develop a right and mature understanding of God’s Word or give way to an immature, ungodly world-view, which comes from the angelic enemy and our sinful nature.

2 Corinthians 4:4 and Ephesians 4:17 establish that the deception of the human mind is the objective of our angelic adversaries and the state of those who do not believe in Christ Jesus. We were saved in Christ Jesus, we were once just as those who do not believe Ephesians 2:2. Therefore, while were in the world and was apart from God, we were deceived by our enemy, partakers of the sinful nature, and men of carnal minds. Yet after we are saved in Christ the enemy still seeks to lead us astray.

2 Corinthians 11:3 (KJV) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

The Greek word for minds is, noema which means a mental perception, an evil purpose, that which thinks, the mind, thoughts or purposes. It occurs 6 times in the New Testament and is translated as “mind” 4 times (2 Corinthians 4:4), “device” one time, and “thought” one time. 2 Corinthians 2:11 (KJV) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Corinthians 2:11 tell us that we are not ignorant of satan’s mind, his plans, his intentions, and his strategy. Satan’s strategy is to deceive us, to blind us from God’s will, to corrupt us from the saving knowledge of Christ.

Spiritual warfare is a battle over our minds, as 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) {Through God: or, to God} 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; {imaginations: or, reasonings}.

This passage from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us clearly that our struggle with our adversary is a mental battle. It is over our thoughts and our imaginations. It is about knowledge. It requires us to align our thinking to Christ, to God’s will. It informs us that the weapons we utilise to accomplish this task are not some strange metaphysical instruments, by which we subdue fallen angels, but which we use to subject our own thoughts to Christ.

Things to avoid in spiritual warfare

Now that we know that the battle is fought in our minds and that, the objective of the enemy is to deceive us. We are trying to avoid in spiritual warfare is remaining carnal, worldly, and sinful in our thinking and in our minds. Noted earlier from 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2-3 and 4:17 all of us start out in this corrupt state of mind. It is the default mind and thinking of an unsaved person.

Romans 8:6-7 (KJV) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. {to be carnally…: Gr. the minding of the flesh} {to be spiritually…: Gr. the minding of the Spirit} 7 because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 

Therefore, we see that we start out carnally minded, blinded by the devil. Moreover, after we are saved, our minds are still targeted by the enemy. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Paul told us that we must make our previously carnal and sinful minds and thoughts subject to God and obedient to Christ. The carnal mind is the product of the world and the enemy. It is an ungodly world-view or worldly wisdom, which, as Christians we must still fight to avoid.

Colossians 2:8 (KJV) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. {rudiments: or, elements} {make a prey: or, seduce you, or, lead you astray}.

The word translated in these passages as “spoil” is the Greek word sulagogeo, which only occurs here in this passage. It means to carry off booty, to carry one off as a captive, or to lead away from the truth and subject to one’s sway.

The philosophies and wisdom of men, which are devoid of truth, without spiritual value, worldly and deceitful. Therefore, worldly wisdom is unprofitable, deceptive, and must be made subject to Christ, The following passages points out that the wisdom of the world comes from our angelic adversaries.

In Ephesians 6, our struggle is against angelic rulers. Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. {flesh…: Gr. blood and flesh} {spiritual…: or, wicked spirits} {high: or, heavenly}

1 Corinthians 2 informs us that these angelic rulers are the source of worldly wisdom, which we must rid ourselves of. 1 Corinthians 2:6 (KJV) Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
The wisdom of these angelic rulers is contrasted with the wisdom of God in

Ephesians 3:10 (KJV) To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 confirms this conclusion. 2 Corinthians 10:4 (KJV) (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) {through God: or, to God} 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; {imaginations: or, reasonings}

The word used in this passage for “casting down” is the Greek word kathaireo, which in the context of thoughts and knowledge means to take down, pull down, demolish, the subtle reasoning of opponents, or to refute. The Greek word for “high thing” is hupsoma, which is used only one other time, in Romans 8:39, which referred to, among other things, angels. Romans 8:39 (KJV) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Hence, wicked angels in heavenly places seek to deceive mankind through worldly wisdom and blind us so that we do not come to the knowledge of Christ.

How to deal with the devil & demons

Studying the Word of God, learning, teaching, defending, and implementing sound doctrine in dismissal of false doctrine is our principal act of spiritual warfare. The natural state of sinful man is the carnal mind or the sinful nature. Once we are saved, we are delivered from the carnal mind through Jesus’ Christ’s atoning work. However, this deliverance from the carnal mind is not immediate, but a process as Romans 12:2 (KJV) states. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

In Romans 12:2 we are told to not be conformed to the world, which includes living our lives according to the wisdom of the world and of the rulers of this world. In order to avoid conforming to this world or “walking according to the course of this world,” we must renew our minds by making our thoughts and imaginations obedient to Christ. However, 

How do we renew our minds?

How do we leave behind this sinful mind and become Christ-like? The answer is: with the knowledge of God.

Colossians 3:10 (KJV) And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: We escape the pollution of this world through the knowledge of God. 

2 Peter 2:20 (KJV) For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledgeof the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

Ephesians 4:13 (KJV) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: {in: or, into} {stature: or, age}

Hebrews 5:12 (KJV) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. {is skilful: Gr. hath no experience} 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Paul provides similar instructions in 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Therefore, then those who are mature in Christ are those who are well trained in God’s Word, who understand God’s word and are skilful in examining and teaching it, and who can distinguish between good and evil.

Discern sound and unsound doctrine

Paul clearly states in Ephesians 4:14 (KJV) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. From these passages, we can see that God expects Christians to progress from our unsaved, carnally minded selves, to babes in Christ, to mature Christians who are able to skilfully divide the Word of Truth and distinguish sound doctrine from false doctrine. 

1 Corinthians 3:1 (KJV) And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 

2 Timothy 3:7 (KJV) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

Matthew 15:6 (KJV Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 

Matthew 15:9 (KJV) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Matthew 16:6 (KJV) Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Mark 7:7 (KJV) Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of me.

Mark 7:13 (KJV) Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Matthew 22:29 (KJV) Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

Mark 12:24 (KJV) And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

The list of Bible verses above is to show the importance of gaining an understanding of God’s Will through the Word.

We are not to remain in ignorance

By contrast we see that the New Testament indicates that it is God’s will that we are not left in ignorance or in the error of our previous ways before we came to him, but that we come to the knowledge of the truth. Likewise, we see that this godly knowledge, wisdom, and understanding come from the Word and are essential to safeguarding ourselves from the deception and plans of the enemy.

Hosea 4:6 (KJV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. {destroyed: Heb. cut off}

2 Timothy 2:4 (KJV) No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Colossians 3:10 (KJV) And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 

2 Peter 2:20 (KJV) For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

Ephesians 1:7 (KJV) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Ephesians 4:13 (KJV) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: {in: or, into} {stature: or, age}

The word “knowledge” appears in 1 Timothy 2:4, Colossians 3:10, 2 Peter 2:20, Ephesians 1:17, and Ephesians 4:13 is the Greek word epignosis and it refers to a precise and correct knowledge of God. It comes from the Greek word epignosko, which means to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to know accurately, and know well. From this we can see that it is crucial that God’s people pursue and come to a thorough understanding of God’s Word and that this pursuit is an essential part of the spiritual warfare of the believer.

Our defence

The New Testament also instructs us regarding our minds, that we should be sober, that is calm, collected, temperate, and prudent. The word “sober” that appears in the passages below is the Greek word nepho, and it means to be clear-headed.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (KJV) But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

1 Peter 1:13 (KJV) Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ

1 Peter 4:7 (KJV) But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 

1 Peter 5:8 (KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.


One of the favourite Scriptures quoting by SLSW group is Ephesians 6:10-18 regarding putting on the armour of God. When the important points in these verses are considered in its context as well as that of other Scriptures, then we find that: There is no mention of a war in which the believer must attack satan and his demonic forces. The opposite is rather true. Our fight is a defensive one, not an offensive one. The distinction is made by the type of sword in verse 17. It is not the heavy sword used by the Roman soldiers when they attacked, but the short dagger-type sword they used in defence and close combat.

After having put on the full armour then the believer has to subject himself to God in 

prayer (v.18) so that he may be prepared to “make known the mystery of the gospel.” 

Note that prayer is not part of the armour.

Sins do not originate with demonic influences, but in the hearts/minds of man. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen. 6:5.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36. If we continue to seek release from the sins of the flesh through other means than the cross, then we reject the completed work of Christ on the cross – He bore ALL our sins in His body (I Pet. 2:24). Christ’s words, It is finished were then spoken in vain.

How do we deal with satan and demons today. Through Faith in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ I John 5: 4-5

Jesus Christ defeated satan on the cross; we must trust Him and His finished work as the means of our salvation from satan and the power of sin. I John 1:7; Rev.12: 11. “They overcame him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb,” By submitting our soul’s well-being to our Heavenly Father and trusting His promises – Psa.46: 1 – James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”. Through the power of the Word of God “and by the power of the Word” (Rev.12: 11)

When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, He rebuked him by quoting the Scriptures. We must be able to do the same thing. David said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” Ps 119:11 see Psalms 91; Gal. 6:12-16

Bibliography• From the Prayer Warrior series by C. Peter Wagner:• Warfare Prayer: How to Seek God’s Power and Protection in the Battle to Build his Kingdom, Regal Books, Ventura, 1992.• Prayer Shield: How to Intercede for Pastors, Christian Leaders and Others on the Spiritual Frontlines, Regal Books, Ventura, 1992.• Breaking Strongholds: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make your Prayers more Strategic, Effective and Targeted, Regal Books, Ventura, 1993.• Confronting the Powers: How the New Testament Church Experienced the Power of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare, Regal Books, Ventura, 1996.• C. Peter Wagner and E. Douglas Pennoyer (eds), Wrestling with Dark Angels: Towards a Deeper Understanding of the Supernatural Forces in Spiritual Warfare, Regal Books, Ventura, 1990.• Charles H. Kraft, Defeating Dark Angels: Breaking Demonic Oppression in the Believer’s Life, Sovereign World, Tonbridge, 1993.• Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian: How to Live in Victory and Retake the Land, YWAM Publishing, Seattle, 1995.• Neil T. Anderson, Winning Spiritual Warfare: Steps to Freedom in Christ, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, 1990.• Mark I. Bubeck, The Adversary: The Christian vs Demonic Activity, Scripture Press, Amersham-on-the-Hill, 1975.• Quinn Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock, A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, Eagle, Guildford, 1993.• Ed Murphy, The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare,Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1992.• Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare• David Powlison. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1995.

Categories: Theology

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