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Doctrine of Spiritual Warfare Maneuvers

June 15, 2017

Doctrine of Spiritual Warfare Maneuvers

1. The armor of God provides the believer’s minimum requirements for success in the spiritual warfare which exists between the forces of God and Satan. Eph. 6:11.

Because of this on-going conflict the believer needs to continually be on his guard in order to properly handle the attacks that come from the world, the flesh and the devil.
The concept of “minimum requirements” simply indicates that IN PRINCIPLE these are the resources available to the believer for fulfilling Christian living here on earth.

For more details I will relate the armor of God to the SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVERS that delineate the attitudes and actions required for success as earthly ambassadors for Christ and royal priests of God.

2. The conflict that the believer is engaged in is primarily spiritual rather than physical.

Eph. 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual things of infectious evil in the heavenly spheres.”

2Cor. 10:3, “For though we walk in the flesh (a physical body), we do not war according to the flesh.”

3. Therefore, the weapons employed are not physical, but spiritual, and of God.

2Cor. 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but powerful in God for the destruction of fortresses.”

Eph. 6:10, “Finally, be powerful in the Lord even by the authority of His strength.”

Eph. 6:13, “Therefore take up the full armor of God that you may have power to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

4. However, the believer remains here on earth in a physical body that is cursed with the presence of the sin nature that by character expresses rebellious independence from God. Accordingly, the SCENE of most battles will revolve around the physical body, and the 5 senses that the sin nature uses to tempt and control the believer. Rom. 7:14-23; Gal. 5:17-21
Gal. 5:17, “for the flesh expresses its desire contrary to the Spirit, and the Sprit expresses its desire contrary to the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, with the result that you do not to the things that you want.”

See Topic: The sin nature

5. But even with this PHYSICAL context as the battle field, the war is really AND ALWAYS waged IN THE SOUL; in the mind of the believer. It always revolves around what YOU THINK.

2Cor. 10:5, “destroying human logic and every proud thing that lifts itself up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought captive into the obedience to Christ.”

Romans 8:5-6, “For those who are (walk) according to the sin nature (the flesh) think the things of the sin nature (the flesh), but those who are (walk) according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the thinking of the sin nature (the flesh) results in spiritual neutralization (death), but the thinking of the Spirit results in life and peace.”

6. And what you THINK is determined by what you LEARN. That’s why it is absolutely necessary to relate to God on His terms, knowing and using HIS viewpoint; His truth. And learning and using truth revolves around THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT. Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not bring to completion the desire of the flesh.”

Thus, when we are given the first increment of the armor of God, it is of course, THE BELT OF TRUTH.

But before Paul gets to the armor, he has already clarified the primary issue in spiritual survival at Ephesians 5:18. In this instruction, Paul uses a communication device called antithetical parallelism.

He uses a physical phenomenon that indicates abandonment of one’s mental senses over to be influenced and controlled by a negative and harmful effect to compare with a spiritual condition that indicates influence by a positive and beneficial effect.

A. THE NEGATIVE INFLUENCE: “And do not be drunk (influenced) with wine, in which is abandonment (loss of control).” Wine in excess that is taken into the body will affect the PHYSICAL function of the brain so that there will be loss of control. The person will not be able to do what he WANTS TO DO.

This represents the negative influence of the sin nature as already seen at Galatians 5:17, “with the result that you do not do the things that you want.”

And at Romans 7:19, “for the good that I want (to do) I don’t do, but the evil that I don’t want (to do), THAT I practice.”

And wine is the best example that Paul can find to illustrate what happens when a negative influence controls the mind.

B. THE POSITIVE INFLUENCE: “but be filled-controlled by the Spirit.” The filling-control of the Spirit is the influence of the Spirit who brings to mind the truths of God’s word that have been taught to the believer. It is set up in contrast to ANYTHING that controls the mind, whether it is a physical effect such as alcohol or drugs, or an ideological influence such as human or satanic viewpoint. However, the difference between the physical influence and the influence of the Spirit is that the believer loses his function of CHOICE (volition) when the physical influence is in control (that is what drunkenness or a drug “high” does). Whereas with the influence from the Spirit, the believer still has the choice whether or not to USE the information that the Spirit brings to mind.

And when Paul finishes listing the six items of the armor, he indicates that support through prayer is expressed by the same factor of the filling of the Spirit. He writes, “with all prayer and petition pray at all times, IN THE SPIRIT.”

And Jude also stresses this factor at Jude 20-21, “but you beloved, building yourselves up by your most holy faith; praying IN THE HOLY SPIRIT; keep yourselves in the love of God.”

All these expressions, “in the Spirit;” “walk by the Spirit;” “those who are according to the Spirit;” “be filled with the Spirit;” and “he who is spiritual” (1 Cor. 1:15) refer to the same thing.

7. The pieces of the armor are symbolic to represent the six spiritual issues of preparation, character, service, defense, security, and offense – all of which depend on the 7th factor which is support.

8. PREPARATION: The girdle of truth

A. The BELT or girdle provides ease and comfort in movement as well as an anchor for the rest of the armor. In actuality, everything else depends on this ANCHOR. The Anchor for the Christian is the word of God – studied, learned and USED. There is no knowledge of God or of His provisions; the principles and promises of spiritual truth without the information found in the Bible.

B. This presents the issue of spiritual growth through learning God’s word. 1 Peter 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:15; John 8:31-32

C. See Topic: GROWTH: The urgency of growth

D. There is no way to fulfill the rest of Christian responsibilities without a knowledge and dependence on bible truth. However, before one can pursue the learning of God’s word, there must be the HUMILITY attitude that recognizes God as the absolute authority in life and His viewpoint and policy as the absolute standards for what His creatures are to THINK and to DO.

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #1 – HUMILITY

(For details on these maneuvers, see: SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVERS

The gospel message that the unbeliever hears represents God as the absolute authority in the universe and as the one who has provided the one and only solution to man’s spiritual needs. When the unbeliever accepts the gospel, he is accepting God as represented therein; that is, he has a HUMILITY recognition and acceptance of God’s authority, viewpoint and policy. Accordingly, even before the new believer has learned God’s word, when the he faces temptation and various other pressures in life, the application of humility is the initial maneuver that will encourage him to choose God over the various alternative choices for dealing with the situations.

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #2 – LOVE FOR GOD

In addition to humility, the new believer has expressed a BASIC LOVE toward God. That is, he has expressed a basic placement of VALUE on WHO God is and WHAT He has done (the concept of first love at Rev. 2:4). All this comes simply from the knowledge and acceptance of the gospel of salvation.
And like with HUMILITY, the application of basic love for God is a spiritual defense maneuver to encourage the believer to resist sin and evil and to choose God.

Both the attitude of HUMILITY and of LOVE toward God are then perpetuated into the new believer’s life so that BY those attitudes he is motivated to STUDY God’s word and then DO what is impressed upon his soul as the right and proper thing to do.

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #3 – MORALITY

Before the new believer is able to pursue a significant study of God’s word, he will be reminded of a set of moral standards built into his soul that makes him aware of what is right and proper behavior within human society in general. His conscience tells him that these standards are right and proper, and it is his HUMILITY and LOVE toward God which will motivate him to follow those standards before they can be confirmed by his study of God’s written word.

We thus see that there are THREE factors involved with the believer’s initial success in his Christian life; humility, basic love toward God and the morality design within his soul. These maneuvers need to be engaged for the believer to advance in growth so that his character will begin to be changed by the presence of God’s word in the soul.

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #4 – OCCUPATION WITH THE WORD

Humility, love and moral influence help the believer resist the negative influence of the sin nature.
The more consistently that the believer can avoid personal sin and stay in fellowship with God, the more progress he will make in his pursuit of truth – the study of God’s word.
And of course, the more of God’s word he stockpiles in his soul, the greater will be his arsenal to deal with future temptations and pressures of this life. Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have stockpiled in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”
By learning the standards of God’s word, we equip our souls with the wisdom of His viewpoint and our character begins to change for the better. Then by keeping our minds active in thinking about these truths, we give the Holy Spirit something to bring to our remembrance, and we are able more consistently, to make decisions that are pleasing to Him and beneficial to us.

Not only that, but as the word of God CHANGES the soul of the believer, he begins to take on the character of RIGHTEOUSNESS. This character of righteousness is simply an intensification of humility, love and moral goodness, and is actually the radiance of Christ’s character in the life of the believer.
Righteousness refers to the inner character of conformity to God’s standards of right and wrong/good and bad in the universe as demonstrated in the life of Christ while he lived here on earth. It is more than just a DOING of moral goodness, it indicates that there is now an inclination toward good to off set the inclination toward evil that comes from the sin nature.

Accordingly, the development of the CHARACTER of righteousness becomes a key factor for dealing with the attack from the spiritually antagonistic environment that we reside in here on earth. And Paul uses the breastplate from the Roman armor to illustrate protection of the believer’s testimony as a child of God.
Such righteous behavior is PROPER AMONG SAINTS (Ephesians 5:3), and is the basis for walking AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT (Eph. 5:8).

9. CHARACTER: The Breastplate of Righteousness

A. The breastplate symbolizes a righteous character as a protective device to offset the standards and viewpoint of evil – from the world, the sin nature and the devil.
B. Righteousness refers to the attitude and behavior of reflecting or actually RADIATING God’s character by cultivating humility, love and moral goodness
C. Righteousness is cultivated by learning bible truth. When the word of God is accepted into the soul of the believer, it not only builds NEW standards of goodness and righteousness and truth (Eph. 5:9), but it actually produces a change in character. At 2 Corinthians 3:18, it is called being “transformed” into the image of God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 describes it as imitating God by walking in the quality of love that was expressed by Jesus while he lived here on earth, and epitomized by his sacrifice on the cross.
2 Tim. 3:16-17 calls this “training in righteousness.”
1 Timothy 1:5 tells us that that “the goal of the instruction is love” that comes from a cleansed heart (no sin that is unconfessed in the life), a good conscience (the NEW standards of righteousness built in the soul), and an un-hypocritical faith (the application of those standards by faith-thinking).

D. Righteousness is then expressed in the life by using the standards of God’s word to deal with any and every situation in life. Romans 13:14 describes it as “PUTTING on the Lord Jesus Christ,” which results in resisting the negative influence of the sin nature.

E. Sinless consistency is the reality of avoiding the expressions of sin for long periods of time.
The ability to do this is through application of the spiritual defense maneuvers.
Humility, love and the soul’s moral inclination motivate the believer to avoid sin, but only to a limited degree. But it can be enough to allow the believer to learn God’s word and learn the standards of God’s goodness, righteousness and truth. These standards then become the builder of the NEW CHARACTER of righteousness in the life of the believer. And that new character becomes an added impetus to avoid sin.

F. However, even as the believer begins to learn God’s word and become more and more OCCUPIED with it, and even though his character is becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ, the sin nature is still present and wields a very strong influence. With such a strong INTERNAL pull from the sin nature, the believer must still must depend on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to BRING TO REMEMBRANCE the things that have been learned. This dependence on the Holy Spirit is spiritual defense maneuver #5.

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #5 – THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

This refers to the function of God the Spirit in guiding and influencing the believer through bringing to remembrance the standards of truth that have been taught to him. The Filling of the Spirit revolves around the issue of fellowship with God. The believer experiences the STATUS of fellowship with God when there is no sin in the life.
And as that believer actively applies the standards of God in everything he does, he will enjoy the EXPERIENCE of fellowship with God. This is called, walking in the light at 1 John 1:7, and walking in the Spirit at Galatians 5:16 and 25.

As the believer applies the word of God in order to resist temptation and make the proper decisions when faced with various pressures and troubles, he demonstrates an attractive Christian life to those around him. This produces a consistent witness in the believer and allows him to make an impact on others through his life and his message. And with the proper knowledge of God’s plan of salvation, then the believer can give an accurate salvation message and offset the attack of Satan who uses human viewpoint and religion in his attempt to discredit the plan of God.

Accordingly, Paul mentions the THIRD part of the armor, which is accurate knowledge of the gospel of peace in order to perform an effectual evangelistic SERVICE to God.

10. SERVICE: The Boots of the Gospel

A. The feet symbolize life and service
B. The gospel is the message of salvation through Christ.
C. Dressing the feet indicates a complete and accurate understanding of the gospel so the believer can fulfill his ambassadorship. 2Cor. 5:19-20
D. Far too often a false and inaccurate gospel message is proclaimed and this confuses and misleads people. Matthew 23:13, 15; Gal. 1:6-9.

As the believer maintains a consistent testimony of righteousness and a consistent proclamation of truth, he will come under the attack of those who hate the light. John 15:18-21
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘a slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”
It is as Paul wrote at 2 Timothy 3:12, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted.”

When the believer faces persecution from his proclamation of the true gospel, he will also come under the attack of doubt and fear. Under such pressure, he will need to claim the many and varied promises of God, that are designed to repel the darts of Satan’s attack. FAITH REST is the spiritual defense maneuver that will keep the believer focused on the character and plan of God.
1 Peter 4:12-13, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #6 – FAITH REST

Faith rest is the attitude and practice of being totally relaxed and confident in the character and plan of God based on knowledge and trust in His promises. God has provided us with thousands of specific promises to deal with every situation in life. As we learn them, through engaging the SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER of occupation with the word, they become part of our conscience; our standards, and we can be sure that the Holy Spirit will bring them to mind in times of need.

The practice of FAITH REST pulls together all the previous spiritual defense maneuvers and allows the believer to combat the insecurity, worry, fear and doubt which is encountered quite often on a daily basis. FAITH REST functions then as a SHIELD that repels these darts that attack the comfort and security of the believer.
Paul uses the SHIELD unit of the armor to illustrate the protective maneuver of FAITH REST.

11. DEFENSE: The Shield of Faith
A. Faith is total trust in the character and plan of God in the face of all the negatives of the world system.
B. It is the function of faith, beyond saving faith, which is the basis for living the Christian way of life. Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore received the Lord Jesus Christ (by faith at the moment that you trusted in Him as your savior), in like manner (by faith) keep on walking in Him.”
C. Faith thinking expressed by total trust in God’s character results in perfect peace, joy & inner stability
D. Jesus calls it rest for the soul. Matthew 11:29
E. Paul calls it the peace of God which surpasses human comprehension at Philippians 4:6-7
F. It is called rest at Hebrews 4:1-13 (therefore the title, Faith rest life)

One of the key factors of trusting in God’s character and plan is salvation security.
When everything seems to go wrong, and even failure upon failure is encountered by the believer, he can always fall back upon the beautiful promise of Roman 8:38-39.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The believer can always be assured that God will never leave him or forsake him. The motivation to KEEP ON GOING no matter how hard it gets is a MIND issue. The best way to illustrate the value of the mind and the need to keep it protected is to use the HELMET factor of the Roman armor.

12. SECURITY: The Helmet of Salvation

A. This protects the head which symbolizes the self-consciousness of the soul or the ego. This is Where reasoning and free will are located.

B. Head protection then speaks of preserving a positive mental attitude.
C. The greatest motivation for both offense and defense in the spiritual conflict is the attitude of salvation security.
D. This gives the believer assurance and confidence concerning his spiritual status, provision in time and his future.
E. Confidence of salvation is not a license to sin, but freedom to serve.
F. At 1 Thessalonians 5:8, this helmet is called the confidence of salvation.
See Topic: Salvation Security

Although the Christian soldier can be aggressively “on the attack” without all defensive factors in place, it should be obvious that as in physical combat, when the soldier has all his defenses working efficiently he is able to be much more aggressive in his offensive maneuvers. Accordingly, the last item of armor that Paul mentions is the weapon of OFFENSE, the sword. In the case of the Christian though, it is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

13. OFFENSE: The Sword of the Spirit

A. Which is the word of God: Only the word of God can expose and nullify the deception of the darkness; human and satanic viewpoint.
“The word of God is living and powerful,” Hebrews 4:12.
Ephesians 5:13, “but all things become visible when they are exposed by the light.”

B. The primary focus here is on OFFENSE; that is, being on the attack to defeat that which seeks to destroy God’s authority, viewpoint, and policy.
C. The enemy is described at 2 Corinthians 10:5 as viewpoint contrary to the knowledge of God.
D. The only thing which can effectively destroy such “darkness” viewpoint is God’s word. Titus 1.9,
“Holding fast the faithful word which is according to the standard of the teaching, so that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

2 Timothy 4:2, “Proclaim the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and instruction.”

SPIRITUAL DEFENSE MANEUVER #7 – Beneficent Love

Of course, the application of beneficent love is both defensive and offensive in its expression.
The defense is realized as we understand and apply the character of love that seeks the benefit of others and therefore provides a REASON and motivation to resist self-centered and arrogant personal sins and sin cycles.
But it is also OFFENSIVE as the believer seeks to offset the pain and suffering that is often caused by Satan’s attempt to discredit and offset or neutralize God’s mercy and grace provision that is extended to the whole world.

The most consistent expression of beneficent love is based on knowledge of God’s word. When the believer understands WHO God is and what His plan is, he can promote it and advance it as an effective ambassador for Christ.
“The goal of the instruction is LOVE,” 1 Timothy 1:5
The ultimate progress in spiritual growth is measured by “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,” Ephesians 3:19
And this COMPLETED or “perfected” love “casts out fear,” 1 John 4:18
It is the consistent expression of love, whether THROUGH Christ or radiated in the life of the functional believer, that destroys the works of the devil (1 John 3:8-10). And this passage connects the radiating of God’s righteousness with the radiating of God’s love.
This action of casting out fear or destroying the works of the devil refers to the same thing – elevating the LIGHT of God’s truth above the DARKNESS of human and satanic viewpoint.

Beneficent love is not only the ULTIMATE in defense but it is also the ULTIMATE in offense to promote and advance THE LIGHT, and to neutralize the effectiveness of the darkness within the periphery of each believer’s influence. As believers remain in fellowship with God and function effectively as ambassadors for Christ, they are actively involved with ADVANCING the progress of God’s plan in the world, as that plan moves ever closer to the arrival of Jesus. This fulfils the exhortation found at 2 Peter 3:12.

This completes Paul’s use of the armor illustration to teach about the believer’s spiritual function here on earth. But there is an additional factor which is necessary for encouragement and motivation. It is prayer.

14. The seventh factor which is not really part of the armor, but necessary in any combat situation, is support. Ephesians 6:18 – prayer for all the saints.

This is the family support and concern which each family member should receive from the others.
Prayer not only shows the believers that each one cares for the other, but it calls upon the specific intervention of God in various situations encountered in our life on earth.
Prayer is divided into 3 primary categories:

A. ACCESS Prayer: This is the provision of ACCESS to fellowship with God through salvation relationship with Him. The experience of access to God through prayer is based on fellowship with Him. That is, there can be no un-confessed sin in the life, for “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” (Psalm 66:18). This is described as the believer abiding in Christ (walking in the light; walking as He walked, 1 John 2:3-6) and as having the word of God controlling the soul of the believer. “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7.

B. PRAISE Prayer: This is communion with God based on understanding His person and work, and it falls into two categories.

1. Exaltation: Heb. 13:15
2. Thanksgiving: Eph. 5:20; 1 Thes. 5:18

C. PETITION: This is asking for things from God “on behalf of” others or for self. 1 Tim. 2:1-2,
entreaties, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings.

1. Prayer for self:
2. Prayer for others:
3. Prayer for those unable to pray for themselves: intercession
(unbelievers or believers out of fellowship with God)

Prayer calls upon God to act in various situations where He might not otherwise act.
Yes, He has a specific plan, and it involves both general and specific activity. There are certain things that God will do ONCE because it is His INTENT to do it. Some of these things He will not repeat, because He will have fulfilled His initial purpose. However, when a believer prays that the particular activity might be done, then God will do it, even if it has already been done and even if it was not His original intent to repeat it. A good example is giving the gospel to an unbeliever.
Once the unbeliever expresses interest in God, then God is obligated to get to him gospel information so that he can be saved. However, if the unbeliever rejects the gospel, God has fulfilled His plan and His righteousness and is not obligated to continue giving him the gospel. But if a believer prays to God that the gospel be given to that unbeliever, then God is obligated to answer the prayer and provide the gospel once again to that specific unbeliever.

See Topic: PRAYER

Thus, through prayer support, believers can be encouraged to stay focused on God’s plan for them; to stay in fellowship by using the spiritual defense maneuvers, and to be proactive in representing truth to those around him – no matter how grievous the situation might be.
Prayer from others will keep the “reminding” ministry of God the Holy Spirit coming into the life of the believer, and even bring specific physical ACTIONS from God to help and protect the believer.