What Does Paul Say about Spiritual Warfare?

Spiritual warfare is recognized by every New Testament writer. In his first letter to the persecuted and scattered exiles, Peter addresses an array of practical matters dealing with all sorts of ordinary issues related to suffering. He concludes the epistle with a discussion of spiritual warfare, not as something abnormal or tangential to the topic but normal and integral. Peter remarks: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

But the vast teaching on the subject of spiritual warfare is found in the writings of the Apostle Paul, as core subject matter in the curriculum of Christian discipleship. The division, disorder, depravity, and dysfunction highlighted in the first letter to the church at Corinth are shown in Paul’s second letter to involve spiritual opposition (2 Cor. 2:11; 10:3–6; 11:14; 12:7).

It is in his letter to the Ephesians, however, that the Apostle establishes a center for the study of spiritual warfare. Every chapter touches on the subject, as Paul describes the deliverance of Christ, the call of the Christian, and the dark world in which we live as children of light, contending with spiritual forces of evil.

…The letter begins with a declaration of deliverance in Ephesians 1:3–14, a single sentence in the original language. This magisterial statement unfolds in Trinitarian form, like the unfurling of the banner of our salvation, the flag of victory raised to herald the kingdom of God and His Christ. The Father appoints salvation in His predestinating love. The Son accomplishes salvation through His saving work on the cross. The Spirit applies that finished redemption as He unites us to Christ in our effectual calling, sealing us to belong to God.

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