Winning the Spiritual Warfare in Today’s Broken Culture: (Our) Peace Through (God’s) Strength
Excerpted and adapted from two sermons preached by Dr. Sam Horn at Palmetto Baptist Church and discussed on The Steve Noble Show on Sept. 30.
Political leaders over the years have posited the concept of “peace through strength”: deterring enemies through military might. Sadly, many Christians have adopted and adapted this strategy to deal with the massive brokenness and conflict in almost every segment of the culture around us.
How can we believers find strength to stand his or her spiritual ground in the face of this brokenness if not by our own determination to do right? Why not speak truth to power? Rise up and protest? Engage in civil disobedience, and even physical force or military resistance? After all, examples of these are found in Scripture and even in church history.
But if we are to fight for Christ and His Gospel successfully, we first need to know why we are fighting and where the real battle is. Why? So we don’t miss our assignment, or even worse, inadvertently aid the enemy by furthering his objective.
And while Paul and other New Testament authors do use military metaphors when instructing Christians on living faithfully to God and to His Word in an equally hostile culture, they point to a spiritual conflict between God and His armies and the massive, wicked spiritual forces led by God’s and our ancient enemy, Satan. Without a doubt, the most detailed explanation of this conflict is in the book of Ephesians. And the most detailed instruction about how to fight is in 6:10-20.
Evidence of this massive spiritual war is all around us. Satan is pulling out the stops to lead people ever further from God’s truth and through sin, break the peace — shalom — established in Creation, when seven times “God saw that it was good.”
The New Testament writers reveal that God’s ancient enemy is ours as well and is determined to marshal all of his spiritual forces, tactics and strategies to destroy, damage or disfigure God’s shalom (Eph. 6:10-13). He seeks to defile our character, dismantle our marriages and families, discourage our work for God, derail our walk with God and render us totally defeated in our Christian life — not to mention increasingly divide us from one another within our respective societies around the world.
That’s where God’s version of “peace through strength” comes in.
The shalom that Satan broke was reestablished at the cross (Eph. 2:13-17). God is doing a stunning work through Christ by the energizing power of the Spirit: restoring peace to the entire creation in both heaven and on earth to their original condition of blessing prior to Satan’s fall in heaven and Adam’s subsequent earthly fall (1:9-10).
Moreover, He has already granted that peace (shalom) to all believers (1:2; 5:23) along with the fullness of blessing that comes with it (1:3). This shalom:
- Comes from heaven through the work of God’s anointed, appointed champion, Jesus the Messiah (1:9) who would make that peace by His obedient life and vicarious death (2:13-17).
- Is established in the “heavenlies” (1:3), a term that immediately alerts his reader they live in two very real realms interacting with each other.
- Stands for as long as Messiah lives because He himself is the peace (2:14).
- Is announced and offered to men in the magnificent message of the Gospel (1:13; 2:4-10; 2:17-18; 6:15).
- Is gloriously displayed in His church in His people’s relationships with other believers (4:1-3) and in their marriages (5:22-32), homes (6:1-4), and vocations (6:5-9).
Paul warns us against the very real temptation to use strategies that are commonly employed in today’s social and cultural war but that are ineffective and ultimately counterproductive to God’s cosmic purposes.
The reason: God is personally is fighting for us and with us in the battle. The Scriptures reveal God as the leader of an undefeatable army whose name “Lord of Hosts” literally means Lord of Armies!
- Deuteronomy 3:22 admonishes us: “‘You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.'”
- 2 Chronicles 32:8 confirms: “‘But with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.'”
Specifically, God has already won our peace through the mighty work of His anointed, appointed champion the Messiah. He is a son promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, a prince marked by peace (Isa. 9:6-7) and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2), who wins a war of cosmic proportions against Satan (Isa. 9:7c) in a single decisive battle (Isa. 42:13; John 19:30; Rev. 19:11-21).
Because we have been translated out of Satan’s realm, the domain of darkness, and have been made members of the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col 1:13-14), we have access to all of this divine champion’s strength (Eph. 1:19; 3:16).
That’s why Paul told the Ephesians to gird themselves for daily battles not by their strength but with Christ’s (6:10), putting on the armor of light (Rom. 12:12): spiritual weapons’ nature (2 Cor. 10:4) for use in the real conflict in the spiritual realm.
Ephesians 6:10-11, 13 encourages us: “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 schemes of the devil … (and) to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (ESV)
In fact, it’s the very armor the Messiah is wearing in this cosmic conflict:
- The belt of truth (Isa. 11:5)
- The breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation (Isa. 59:17)
- The shoes of the Gospel of peace (Isa. 52:7)
- The shield of faith (Gen. 15:1; Deut. 32:9; Ps. 33:20)
- The sword of the Spirit (Isa. 49:2; Deut. 32:9)
Fighting in His Strength by Walking in His Way
What does all of this mean for us in our everyday lives? Not that there won’t be battles — there will be, and fierce at times. Not that we won’t be called upon to fight — we will be, and sometimes to a prolonged battle. Not that at times we won’t come under fire and suffer a temporary setback or momentary defeat — we will.
But we must fight with Christ’s armor and in the way that He used the weapons when He withstood Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). This “armor of light” involves living in ways that reflect our new position, character, and life in Christ — “putting off the works of darkness” and walking in moral and ethical righteousness both in our personal lives and corporately as the church of the living God (Rom. 13:13b-14).
Instead of only striving for mere legislative change or political victory, we will strive with all our might to seize every opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) and live at peace with other believers, our wives and children, our coworkers and our neighbors. And pray for God’s name to be exalted, His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as in the spiritual realm!
We can “fight” in this way because we know the truth:
- The outcome of the battle is never in question — won in Christ!
- Our standing and security with God is never in doubt — accepted in the beloved.
- And help and aid are constantly present — we do not fight alone or in our power.
As we engage the culture in spiritual warfare as God intends, we can know that Christ has won our salvation and glorification and fights beside us for our sanctification! And no one and nothing, in this realm or the next, can deprive us of our peace — provided and protected through His strength.