Recently I was asked a question regarding spiritual warfare, specifically about something someone said and what the Bible says about it (can I be any more vague?). Specifically, this person was told to pray over various rooms in the house to be protected from demons and Satan, and they (nowadays “they” is used as an ambiguous first person singular pronoun, used instead of “he/she” and other awkward alternatives) asked me how valid and biblical this line of thinking is.
One of the many biblical texts on “spiritual warfare” is 2 Cor 10:4-6. It says: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
A few points I want to make on what this passage says:
1) The “weapons,” or means, of war are not physical but spiritual; not material but immaterial. We are physically bound beings and we live in a physical world, and, contra Plato and the Gnostics, the material things of this world are not evil. Nevertheless, the type of battle we are engaged in is not material but beyond material. It is characterized by what you can’t physically sense.
2) The weapons we use in this war have “divine power” (δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ; lit. “power to/unto God”). Without getting too technical grammatically, here “divine” functions not so much as an adjective (descriptive), but as the source of this power (I’m taking the view that the dative of “divine” [τῷ θεῷ] has a locative function, for those interested in these things). So the power we have is from God.
3) The objects of this war are related to our minds. Words like “arguments,” “knowledge of God,” and “every thought” relate to our minds–the immaterial, the spiritual.
4) The goal of this war is obedience. There is nothing in this passage (or other related passages for that matter) that relate to our physical safety. Watching too many horror movies have made us think that demons are out to endanger our physical safety–Paul here talks about disobedience versus obedience. In fact, the best (and by “best” I mean “worst”) thing Satan can do to us is lead us to disobedience. Whether that disobedience is immaterial, like distrust and dissatisfaction (yes, that’s a sin), or material, like adultery and debauchery, this is what Satan truly wants of God’s people.
So how do we engage in spiritual warfare? Build up our minds in God. Our minds are the most important and powerful weapons against Satan and his minions. Prayer is certainly a component of that (as we pray and affirm towards God what is true, and ask for his help). But prayer is not the only weapon; we need to constantly be in God’s Word, read books and articles that illumine God’s Word, listen to sermons and studies that ellucidate God’s Word, listen to music that cause us to think about the things of God–fill our minds with the truth of and about God. Constantly. When the lie that God’s mercy runs out with you (because you are special) enters your mind, you need to be filled with the doctrines of grace so as to combat that lie. When the lie that God doesn’t care about you enters your mind, you have to fill yourself with the truths of Matt 10:30-31.
Your mind is your best weapon of destruction against Satan.
So forget about those superstitions about demons lurking in your closets and doorways, and engage in real spiritual battle by filling your minds with the truths of God. Related to this, my next post will be on some practical ways to do this.