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Spiritual warfare, the resource to grow in faith


11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil12 For we wrestle (ἡ πάλη: fight of strength) 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.

Ephesians 6:11-12

Spiritual warfare is seen in many Christian circles as an auxiliary knowledge of life in Christ Jesus, useful to know, but not necessary to reach salvation; therefore, many men and women of faith do not consider it a subject of transcendent study to grow in the life of faith; however, there are quite a few testimonies of the Spirit of Truth in the Scriptures that testify to the contrary; the most notable testimony is the one we find in the epistle of the apostle Paul to the community of faith in Ephesus: Put on the full armor of God, for we have a struggle ( πάλη: struggle of strength) against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the world, the governors of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in the air.

The teaching that the apostle presents in the epistle on the ‘armor of God’ is not a study in spiritual warfare, that is not the task of the apostle in writing the epistle; the teaching is aimed at instructing those who have believed in Jesus on how to live the life of faith according to the Gospel of the proclamation of Peace.[1]  The apostle’s mission is to teach the Gentiles of Ephesus how to free themselves from the pagan way of life to which they were accustomed in the old way of living.[2]  Note, however, that in the teaching introduced by the epistle, the apostle links spiritual warfare with faith, as if both had the same function of forming life in the Gospel; that is, as if both exercises –spiritual warfare and faith– were the daily way of living life in Christ Jesus. This way of Paul presenting spiritual warfare and faith together under the same instruction on how to live the life in Christ Jesus leads us to establish, without a doubt, that a life of faith cannot be developed without taking into account that faith is to face the fiery darts of the evil one, which leads us to understand that faith is spiritual warfare, without discussion.

The basis of this teaching of Paul is the continuity of the work of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom that the apostle established during his stay in the city of Ephesus.[3]

Thus, according to this teaching, life of faith and spiritual warfare are doctrines of character formation for those who have been born of the Spirit according to the Gospel of Jesus; in these, note, faith is defined as a “shield”,[4] not a weapon of attack but a weapon of defense, which leads us to the understanding that spiritual warfare is not solely about “rebuking” Satan, nor is it solely directed at waging battle against satanic possessions; spiritual warfare is the resistance that one who has believed in Jesus puts up against Satan to prevent him from continuing to use his life as an instrument of iniquity.[5]  Note that this teaching is not exclusive to Paul’s doctrinal theology; the apostle James writes in fairly similar terms, which shows us that this teaching was the general content of the doctrine of the gospel:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

Spiritual warfare is the faith resource developed in and by the Spirit of Truth to strengthen the spiritual growth of the man and woman who have believed in Jesus.[6]


The man and woman of faith become strong in the Spirit not behind a desk seeking information about the life of faith, they become strong in facing and resisting all the darts of the enemy, taking refuge in the Truth of Jesus’ teachings. He who submits himself to the Lordship of Christ but does not resist the devil, is equivalent to the soldier who does not carry his shield, at some time the darts of the enemy will strike him, and he will perish: taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

The life of faith does not consist in ‘attacking’ Satan, nor in destroying the kingdom of darkness, the life of faith consists in being ‘witnesses’ to the super-eminent greatness of God’s power that worked in Christ Jesus, raising him from the dead, and placing him at the right hand of the Father in heaven;[7] in doing this, as recorded in the teaching of Jesus, the gates of hell will not prevail against the advancement in faith of his saints.[8]  The kingdom of darkness is destroyed by the testimony of faith.[9] 


The life of faith in Jesus consists in establishing on earth the principles of Heaven, in the face of which there is no frontal attack great enough to bring down a man or woman of faith.[10]  The life in Christ Jesus is a life of faith.


Faith is spiritual warfare because, as the apostle Paul rightly stated, 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.; but it is a warfare that is waged from resistance to all that seeks to lead man and woman to walk in opposition to the teachings of Jesus. This spiritual warfare consists of taking away from Satan all ‘legal rights’ that allow him to operate in the same environment of faith; a theology that teaches the believer to ‘rebuke’ the devil is useless if it does not first instruct him on how to cancel the actions that give Satan ‘rights’ to operate in their environment.

Faith is born of restored character in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ; the legal right that Satan uses to continue to operate in a faith environment is the same ambiguity of mind that still persists in the heart of the believer.[11]  Apostasy is precisely a double doctrinal position; in Jesus’ words, apostasy is the tares sown in a wheat field.[12]

Another testimony of the Spirit of Truth that spiritual warfare is the resource for growth in faith is found in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “fight the good fight of faith”.

Fight (ἀγωνίζου) the good fight (ἀγῶνα) of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

1st. Timothy 6:12

In this exhortation, the apostle is defining spiritual warfare as the conscious ‘effort’ to do God’s Will. Fight’ means ‘strive’ to establish the Will of God. The expression used by the apostle reflects an ‘agonizing’ effort, that is, an effort carried to the ultimate consequences.[13]  The good fight of faith, then, means the strength born of the knowledge of God’s call that is imposed on all spiritual resistance that seeks to stop the work of faith. According to this teaching, faith is born of the personal decision to go beyond the limits of sacrifice –state of agony, according to the term used by the apostle– until the work demanded of us by the Spirit is completed. Faith overcomes all resistance put up by the kingdom of darkness; faith is understanding that nothing and no one can stop the work of the Lord, but understanding, above all, that we are charged with watching over it. Faith is not just waiting for things to be fulfilled, faith demands active participation. In the epistle to the Hebrews we find this same exhortation in almost the same words.

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sinAnd ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

Hebrews 12:3-5

The apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy can be paraphrased as follows: “Sacrifice yourself to the point of agony in order to win this spiritual battle of faith; on it depends the Eternal Life for which you were called, having borne witness before many witnesses”. Faith is activated when man and woman enter into spiritual warfare. Faith is not to faint because of those who have piety for the sake of pomp,[14] faith is to continue proclaiming the virtues of the one who called us out of darkness into the wonderful Light even though we do not see the results of our action of faith.[15]

In the teachings established by the apostle Paul, spiritual warfare is not always referred to as a frontal fight against the forces of darkness, the apostle warns that the demons use alternate forms to hide so that they cannot be ‘rebuked’ for their actions; the apostle describes several forms of attack used by demons, the first of which is persecution, in his epistle to the Philippians, we read:

having the same conflict (ἀγῶνα) which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Philippians 1:30

The reference that the apostle makes in this text from Philippians is with regard to the persecution he suffered during his stay in the city of Philippi,[16] persecution that he still suffers at the time of writing the epistle; the text can be paraphrased as follows: “having similar suffering to Christ, as you have seen when I was among you, and as you have been notified, that I still have“. Faith is the participation with the sufferings of Jesus Christ,[17] in others of his written faith is presented as perseverance and joy.[18]

Another way demons use to attack those who live a life of faith in Jesus is by the introduction of false doctrine, in the epistle to the Colossians we read about the sorrow in the apostle to learn of those who introduce false doctrine into the community of faith, and to be powerless to intervene personally:

For I would that ye knew what great conflict (ἀγῶνα) I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

Colossians 2:1

What the apostle is facing can be understood in the following paraphrased translation that we have prepared: “I want you to know how great a conflict I have for not being with you, for those of Laodicea, and for all those I do not know personally. I would like to be with you to strengthen your hearts, and to lead you in love, that you may understand and not give up the riches of the revealed knowledge of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.”

The apostle is transmitting the sorrow that is in his heart because of the threat that is hanging over those communities –Laodicea and Colossae– false doctrinal threat that attempts to make them desist from the knowledge of the Gospel that they received through Epaphras, and that has made them stand out as communities of faith in Christ Jesus, and for the love that they show to all the saints that have visited the community.[19]

What Paul is manifesting is his powerlessness not to confront in person those who are introducing teachings that distort sound doctrine in the region. Paul has discovered that behind some of the teachings that the believers of Colosse and Laodicea have received in recent visits from Judaizing preachers, there are teachings that attempt to disrupt the knowledge of Truth, about God incarnate and manifested in Jesus. Spiritual warfare is present in the denunciation of every introduction of apostate doctrine, for not to denounce it means to allow it, which makes us participants in it, according to the apostle John.[20]  In this case the apostle confronted it through the epistles sent to both communities.[21]  Faith is the result of zeal for the work of God; spiritual warfare is aimed at combating all apostate doctrine.

Spiritual warfare is not waged only by ‘rebuking’ demons, as we have seen in the previous cases, there are situations that do not allow it, and not because of that one who has believed in Jesus must refrain from entering into spiritual warfare; spiritual warfare is waged on the basis of the testimony of faith, in the epistle to the Hebrews, we read:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race (ἀγῶνα)  that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The ‘race’ to which the apostle refers is the struggle against the spirit of sin that is present in the environments we frequent; the ‘weight of sin’ consists of the arguments of deception and falsehood on which the societies of the cities in which we live have been built, arguments of deception and falsehood that demand that we behave according to their philosophies of life. Faith is to reject every philosophy of life that cannot be explained according to the teachings of the Word of Truth.

In his final statement, late in his life, the apostle identified that spiritual warfare is in reality the ‘good’ battle of faith, thus making it clear that spiritual warfare is in reality the faith resource developed in and by the Spirit of Truth to strengthen the spiritual growth of the man and woman who have believed in Jesus. He who desists from entering into spiritual warfare, discards his faith growth.

I have fought (ἠγώνισμαι)  a good fight (ἀγῶνα), I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

2nd. Timothy 4:7

A third testimony to the value of spiritual warfare as a resource for growth in faith is the way the apostle describes the supernatural results obtained by those who entered into disproportionate battles to defeat all their adversaries, striving only on the promise God had given them, that through them great deliverance would be established on earth:

33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Hebrews 11:33-34

In the first verses of the chapter he emphasizes that without faith it is impossible to please God, and he defines under that very statement, that faith is the conviction that he who comes to God believes that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, thus emphasizing that all they achieved was not on their own merit, but because they held fast to the knowledge they had of who God is,[22] and to the knowledge of the Truth of His Word.[23]  Faith is clinging to the knowledge of the Sovereignty of God, if God said it, He will do it, and we will carry it out.[24]

When a person who has begun a life of faith in Jesus does not know about spiritual warfare, every vicissitude he faces he will see in it, or a trial or a temptation, all depending on alternate knowledge he possesses, but he will hardly see in it the God-established way of growing and strengthening in faith; many people even, when faced with these types of setbacks, desist from continuing to develop in their spiritual growth.[25]

Spiritual warfare is not an auxiliary knowledge of life in Christ Jesus, spiritual warfare manifests itself in the opposition that the person suffers in all his daily and everyday activities, to lead him to desist from his decision to follow the teaching of Jesus; and he will be confronted, whether he wants to or not, whether he understands about it or not, because by being Light for Jesus he will represent a threat to the forces of darkness; the difference of knowing about the subject is that by becoming aware of the reality of the spiritual struggle, and what it represents for the faith, the person will face every situation with the joy of knowing that he is fighting the battles of Jehovah,[26] and his action against the spiritual hosts of evil will be with wisdom and much more forceful.

The faith that is built on the activity of spiritual warfare is the faith that moves mountains to the sea

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

Matthew 21:21

All biblical quotations are taken from the King James Version.


Pastor Pedro Montoya

Twitter: @pastormontoya


[1]     Ephesians 2:14-17: For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; …   17 and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

[2]     Ditto 4:21-24: 21 if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

[3]     Acts 19:9-12:  But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. 11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12 so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

[4]     Ephesians 6:16: above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

[5]     Romans 6:13-19: 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. …  19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

[6]     Ephesians 6:10: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 

[7]     Ditto 1:19-20

[8]     Mathew 16:18. See also Genesis 22:17: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

[9]     Revelation 12:11: And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

[10]   Mathew 7:24-25: 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

[11]   Luke 9:62: And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

[12]   Mathew 13:24-30

[13]   1st. Thessalonians 2:2: but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention (ἀγῶνι).

[14]   Read the context of the chapter.

[15]   Isaiah 53:1: Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

[16]   Acts 16:12-40: 12 and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.…   19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 20 and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. 22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

[17]   Philippians 1:29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Philippians 3:10: that I may know him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

[18]   Romans 5:3: And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;   2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

[19]   Paul refers to a possible visit by Mark, Barnabas’ nephew: Colossians 4:10

[20]   2nd. John 9-11: Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

[21]   Colossians 4:16: And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

[22]   Jeremiah 9:24: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.

[23]   Titus 1:2: in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

[24]   Psalm 60:12: Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies. Psalm 108:13: Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

[25]   Mathew 13:20-22: 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

[26]   Numbers 21:14; 2 Chronicles 32:8; Isaiah 30:32; Judges 3:1; 1 Samuel 18:17; 25:28