Teaching (Making Disciples: part six)

Too often, we think of discipleship and evangelism as two entirely distinct enterprises, but they are, in reality, two sides of the same coin. 

Both are sharing, proclaiming, and teaching the gospel. 

They only differ in their audience. 

During evangelism, we share the gospel with non-Christians, and during discipleship, we share the gospel with Christians. 

Therefore, discipleship is evangelism for believers, and evangelism is discipleship for non-Christians.

The process of discipleship is important because our call to make disciples is not complete after someone becomes a Christian. 

Jesus did not command us to make converts; He told us to make disciples.

How then do we continue the process of discipleship after someone becomes a Christian?

Our Lord answered the question Himself in the Great Commission: by teaching them to obey all that He commanded us. We are meant to teach Jesus’ teachings to the next wave of disciples.

As with evangelism, God does give to some in the church the specific gift of teaching; however, each Christian is still called to teach in some capacity. Consider Paul’s charge to Timothy, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Paul encourages Timothy to continue the process of teaching other men what it means to follow Christ.

But the process is not only for men. In Titus 2:3-6, Paul gives Titus these words for women:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanders or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Notice that Paul commands older women to teach and train younger women.

Both men and women are called by the Scriptures to teach those who are younger in the faith. I say younger in the faith because physical maturity is not necessarily indicative of spiritual maturity. A young man might be quite mature in Christ, while an older man is an infant in the faith.

Of course, this does not mean that younger believers have nothing to share. Just as we are told to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, so should we teach another the truths of God that we find in Scripture. (Ephesians 5:21) We should mutually build one another up in the Lord, teaching one another to continue walking faithfully with the Christ.

This process can be as intentional as meeting regularly with someone or a small group to study and discuss Scripture, or it could be as relaxed as two families eating together, discussing what God has been teaching them recently. The key is to actually discuss the Scriptures and what God is doing. If we meet with brothers and sisters in Christ without discussing the goodness of the gospel, what makes us any different than the world?

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Evangelism (Making Disciples: part five)

To be honest, I never thought of evangelism and witnessing as two separate actions until recently. In his short (and free!) ebook, What Is the Great Commission?, R. C. Sproul writes:

Evangelism, on the other hand, is the actual proclamation—either oral or written, but certainly verbal—of the gospel. It is declaring the message of the person and work of Christ, who His is and what He has done on behalf of sinners like you and me.

That means there are several reasons that evangelism is not. It is not living your life as an example. It is not building relationships with people. It is not giving one’s personal testimony. And it is not inviting someone to church. These things may be good and helpful, but they are not evangelism. They may lay the groundwork for evangelism. They may allow others to relate to us, or they may cause someone to be curious about why we live the way we do. But they are not evangelism, because they don’t proclaim the gospel. They may say something about Jesus, but they do not proclaim the person and work of Christ.

Witnessing does not necessitate words, but evangelism must use words, either written or spoken. We see this thought from the word evangelism itself. It comes from the Greek word for gospel, which means good news or good message. Therefore, evangelism is gospelism. It is making known the gospel, and because the gospel is a message and messages must be expressed, evangelism is a verbal act.

Many Christians become incredibly fearful at the thought of doing evangelism, while others write it off as a special gifting for some Christians. While there are some Christians with the passion and gifting of evangelism, all followers are called to the task.

We see this principle in the book of Acts. Following the death of the Stephen, the first martyr within the church, the Christians of Jerusalem fled across the Roman Empire. Here is how Luke describes the act: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4)

As they fled from Jerusalem, they continued to preach the word wherever they went. They continued to tell the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord. They kept proclaiming the truth that God saves sinners from the consequences of their sins.

This powerful statement is only made more powerful by who Luke is describing. He is not merely writing about the original disciples of Jesus, like Peter or John. He is not talking about the newly formed church leaders, like Stephen’s fellow deacons. No, Luke is describing the Christians in general. Normal, everyday followers of Christ preached the word of God wherever they went, and the world was irrevocably changed.

Evangelism is the work of every believer, but please realize that this does not mean you need to have a PHD in theology. John writes that Christians overcome satanic forces “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

You do not need to know the ins and outs of systematic theology in order to share the gospel; you only need to have experienced the power of Christ’s saving blood and be able to express how He saved you in words. If Christ’s blood and our proclamation of how He saved us is enough to conquer Satan, it is also entirely sufficient for delivering the gospel message to a heart that is dead in sin.

One more thought on evangelism before I move on. Your salvation was the work of God, not yourself. You were dead in sin, an object of God’s wrath, but Christ made you alive because of God’s great grace and love. Therefore, lay aside the weight of thinking that you will save people with evangelism. We can save no one. Even if we argue someone into Christianity, someone else can always argue them out.

We are simply called to share the gospel, proclaim the good news.

God does everything else.

As a farmer sows seed but God produces the growth, may we also be faithful to share His truth, knowing that God alone can bring the dead to life.

Sept. 30, 2016

Below are a few articles that I found beneficial this past week.

5 Ways To Not Suck at Sharing About Jesus

We mean well and want to share about Jesus with our friends, but an invitation without relational investment is a sales pitch.

7 Reasons Why Faithful Church Attendance Matters

“I love Jesus but not the church” is like saying to a new groom, “I love you but not your bride.” The Bible describes the local church as the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2 Eph. 5:24-27, Rev. 19:7-9, 21:1-2). It is impossible to maintain a thriving relationship with Christ while at the same time avoiding fellowship with a gospel-believing local church. When we commit to loving the church, we commit to loving Christ.

5 Practical Guidelines for Reading the Old Testament Laws

Let’s be honest. Certain parts of the Old Testament can seem just plain weird, “recurringly odd and unaccommodating,” as Mark Coleridge puts it. And no part of the Old Testament seems more foreign than those sections that detail God’s laws for Israel. Whether we read that the Israelites were not to wear clothing with mixed fabrics, or eat shrimp, or make a bald spot on their heads on behalf of the dead, we struggle to see what this has to do with us. I simply haven’t ever been tempted to “boil a baby goat in it’s mother’s milk” (Exod. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21)! Have you?

How to Pray a Psalm

So basically what you are doing is taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through your heart and mind back to God. By this means his words become the wings of your prayers.

9 Things You Should Know About the ESV Bible

As an “essentially literal” translation, the ESV most closely aligns with a formal equivalent translation philosophy in that is “seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer.”

 

Trained, Redeemed, Purified, & Zealous | Titus 2:11-15

Week 8 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12)

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13-14)

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:15)

OPENING THOUGHT

As a guide for how to organize Cretan churches, Paul’s letter to Titus is also abundantly applicable to us today. We have already studied chapter one in which Paul presented his vision of leadership within the church. His idea of multiple pastors living above reproach lives was in sharp contrast to the false teachers that surrounded them. In chapter two, Paul brought the discussion to church members as a whole, encouraging them toward intentional discipleship and evangelism.

Thus far in Titus, it is easy to notice how many commands and exhortations Paul gives to us. Good works seem to be emphasized much by the apostle with little time spent on defining sound doctrine. These verses, however, give attention to the reason behind every command and work: the gospel. The opening word “for” ties our present text as being the motivation for living a life of discipleship and evangelism.

The reasoning behind God’s commands is never “just because”. He always has a plan and a purpose (even if we may not see it presently). Paul contends that we share the gospel because the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people. That God did not leave us condemned in sin is truly good news. That God offers that salvation to everyone is even better. We are not to share the gospel because God commanded it; rather, we must do so because God’s offer of salvation is too great to keep to ourselves.

Read verses 11-12 and discuss the following.

  1. Paul begins this section by stating that the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people. Does this good news mean that all people will be saved? Why or why not?
  2. How does the gospel train us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives?

Read verses 13-14 and discuss the following.

  1. In addition to being trained by the gospel to live godly lives, we are to also wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of Jesus, our God and Savior. Why is the second coming of Christ so important. Why is it called our blessed hope?

Read verse 15 and discuss the following.

  1. Just as the chapter began, Paul ends by urging Titus to proclaim the truth of God. From where does Titus’ authority for exhortations and rebukes come?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Share the gospel. Because this text provides the motivation for discipleship and evangelism, it is best to consider both how and why we do them. Our proper response to a true understanding of the gospel must be to share it with those we love.
  • God has given salvation by grace for all people; therefore, pray that those who do not know God’s grace would hear and receive it.

Living Evangelism | Titus 2:6-10

Week 7 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:9-10)

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

OPENING THOUGHT

Because Paul wrote this letter to Titus to guide him in putting order to churches in Crete, the letter lends itself well to being a summary for a church should function and serve. In the first chapter, Paul dove into the method and theology behind church leadership. He urged Titus to appoint multiple elders in each church, while paying careful attention to the personal qualifications of each elder. Chapter two then led into Paul’s desire for each church’s members, which he began with a thought on biblical discipleship.

Having addressed the need for discipling one another in how to follow Christ more closely, the apostle now moves into a closely related area: evangelism. There is a clear reason for why discipleship and evangelism are brought up back to back because they are two sides of the same coin. Both activities are about sharing and living the gospel. Evangelism has us sharing the gospel with non-Christians in the hope that they will also follow Christ. Discipleship has us sharing the gospel with Christians in the hope that they will follow Christ in an ever deeper relationship. Evangelism is discipleship for non-Christians, and discipleship is evangelism for Christians. The two cannot be separated from one another.

That being said, like discipleship, most Christians feel the need for evangelism but are unaware of how to do it. Too many of us assume that before sharing Christ with others we must have a mastery-level understanding the Bible, be a minister or aspiring minister, or be supernaturally gifted in it. Though we should all aim for a great understanding the Bible, every Christian is a minister, and God does supernaturally use all of us for evangelism, the actual action behind evangelism are not so strange or complicated as we make them. Instead, Paul emphasizes our need to proclaim Christ with our lives before we ever open our mouths.

Read verses 7-8 and discuss the following.

  1. Paul urges Titus to be a model of good works in everything. How might our lives be a model for others?
  2. The teaching of a Christian is meant to be marked by integrity, dignity, and sound speech. What is biblically sound (or healthy) speech?

Read verses 9-10 and discuss the following.

  1. Paul addresses these verses to slaves working for their masters, but we can apply it today as employees and employers. How is being an employee similar and different to being a slave?
  2. The reasoning behind the Christian slaves’ good works is their desire to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. How do our lives adorn the truth of the gospel?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider particularly Paul’s words in verses 9-10. Do you, as an employee, live out those verses? Take time to plan for how to better obey Scripture.
  • Pray for God’s grace to live a life that adorns the gospel message.

 

As we steadily approach the finish line of our present sermon series through the seven letters of Revelation, the third to the last message has hit me full force. Jesus gives to the Apostle John a letter for the church of Sardis, and His words for it are terrifying. We’ve already heard Jesus rebuke the Ephesian church for having solid doctrine but no love and the Thyatiran church for having love but poor doctrine. We’ve already read Jesus threaten to war against the church of Pergamum if they did not repent of their conformity to society rather than the Scriptures.

But His message to Sardis takes everything to a new level.

To Sardis, Jesus claims that they have a reputation for being alive, but they are, in fact, dead. This means that by human standards Sardis appeared to be in decent shape. They were probably growing numerically as a church. The Scriptures were likely taught with a great degree of orthodoxy. They may have even been known for their love of the community around them. We simply don’t know what things they were doing well, but we do know that Jesus calls their bluff. Where men might have considered the church of Sardis to be growing and faithful, Jesus knew that they were flat lining.

The notion of a church appearing to be alive while, in reality, being dead ought to send shivers down our spine. This is the sort of church and the kind of members that we never want to be. So let’s take a moment to consider ways that a church might be dead with the appearance of life.

1. Prayerlessness

I don’t believe it’s possible to overemphasize the value and necessity of prayer. Because of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection, we are able to approach God’s “throne of grace” with confidence, knowing “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” from our Father (Heb. 4:16). What a privilege that we are able to speak to the Almighty God as His children with Him as our Father!

Yet it is not only a privilege but also a joy, an expression of having finally found a treasure that it worth losing everything else to possess (Matt. 13:44). Our hearts ought to be constantly (1 Thess. 5:17) in prayerful communion with God because all else is rubbish (Phil. 3:7) by comparison to His value.

In short, we pray because our hearts will be with our treasure (Matt. 6:21).

A prayerless Christian is no Christian, and a prayerless church is no church.

The lack of prayer indicates that God is not treasured. If God is not treasured, then He is not truly worshiped as God.

In fact, God opposes the prayerless. Both Peter and James tell us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6).” There is no greater expression of pride than prayerlessness. The act of prayer is humbling. It approaches God in His sovereignty, understanding our desperate need for His intervention, guidance, and love. A lack of prayer speaks that we do need God’s grace or aid. Prayer asserts our dependence, while prayerlessness proclaims our independence.

A church that is independent of God is a dead church. Jesus explicitly states that He will build His church (Matt. 16:18). Christ’s church is entirely reliant upon Him as the builder. With an utter independence from Jesus, the church is dead, even while it seems to live.

Jesus urges Sardis to wake up, to be watchful. This idea of wakefulness, watchfulness, and sobriety is at times used in relation to prayer.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Mark 14:38

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 4:2

Isaiah 62:6-7 also describes those in prayer as watchmen on a city’s walls. We ought to pray with all the wakefulness and sobriety of watchmen who were able to glimpse an enemy in the distance and prepare the city accordingly. We must keep alert, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Eph. 6:18).”

A church can do any number of things and have any measure of growth, but without prayer, it is dead with only the semblance of life.

2. Lack of Discipleship

The primary mission that Jesus gave to His disciples was to make more disciples (Matt. 28:19). A church is composed of Christians (disciples of Jesus), and if those Christians do not seek to fulfill Jesus’ great objective, they are outside of His will.

Each of us are called to disciple others and be disciple by others. The church is a perpetual factory of passing on knowledge, skills, and ministries. The goal of every believer ought to be toward making the road a little easier for the next workers to expand the kingdom of God.

A lack of discipleship is evident in a number of ways.

First, the youth are neglected by the older men and women. The primary fashion that Paul seems to envision discipleship within a regular church congregation is older men and women training younger men and women. He tells Timothy to take what he learned from Paul and entrust it “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2).” And he urges Titus to have older women train “young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:4-5).” Negligence to raise up the next generation is a failure to disciple.

Second, resisting to train others in ministry is a failure to disciple. Each ministry of the church must be for the benefit of the church and the service of Jesus; therefore, a resistance toward training others in a particular ministry is a sign of selfishness. It is selfish because it places our desire to be needed above the betterment of the body of Christ. Our identity becomes entangled in our ministry rather than to Christ, so we refuse to let others into our work. The impact is only felt fully by the congregation whenever the person either leaves or dies without warning. The church is left trying to pick up the fragmented pieces because no one else was ever discipled on how to accomplish the work.

A lack of discipleship often results from an unhealthy fixation on the past. When in a perpetual state of remembrance of the good ol’ days, the congregation is not able to sufficiently invest in the future.

A mental resolution that the better days are behind us will ensure that they are.

Jesus made disciples so that they would expand the work of the kingdom of God beyond His ascension into heaven. The disciples made disciples so that the work would continue beyond their lives. Discipleship is about living for something bigger than ourselves. It is about living for Someone bigger than ourselves. It is about aiming to ensure that the message of the gospel goes on long after we have passed from this world. If we fail to do so, our church will die with us.

3. Lack of Evangelism

When Jesus looked upon the crowds of people that came to hear Him teach and be healed, “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36).” Jesus did not gaze at the world going to hell in a handbasket with distain; He saw them with tender love and compassion. Being God, Jesus does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”

The Great Commission’s call to make disciples is Jesus’ answer to this love of the lost. Christ commands us to go into all nations, making disciples by baptizing them and teaching them everything that He commanded us. In many ways, evangelism is the first stage of discipleship. Both are two sides of the same coin. Evangelism is bringing the gospel to non-Christians, and discipleship is applying the gospel to Christians. Discipleship begins with evangelism, and evangelism goes into discipleship.

A church without a love for evangelism is a church without a love for people and the gospel.

If we truly love people, we will desire to bring them the true of the gospel, regardless of the awkwardness of it. A doctor who refuses to inform his patient of cancer because it’s uncomfortable is a failed doctor. Likewise, we cannot claim to love others while letting them go uninformed and without Christ to hell. Or else, we cannot claim to truly believe the gospel as truth, while failing to proclaim it to others.

In this way, without evangelism, the church is either unloving or heretical. It either lacks love along with the church of Ephesus or lacks the understanding of truth like the church of Thyatira. Without a love to share the gospel with others, a church finds itself in clear danger of having its lampstand removed (Rev. 2:5) or being made into an example of Christ’s judgment for all churches to see (Rev. 2:22-23).

4. Toleration of Sin

In many ways, a toleration of sin is the only way to kill a church. Prayerlessness and lack of discipleship and evangelism are sinful behaviors. They are sins of omission rather than commission. James 4:17 puts it plainly:

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Repeatedly the Bible associates sin with death—after all, sin brought death into creation to begin with.

“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” – Romans 8:10

“But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” – Colossians 2:13

Sin kills. And tolerated sin kills fully. We, naturally, do not enjoy being rebuked for sin. It is never pleasant to be told that we are in the wrong; however, it is necessary. A kind admonishment is one of the most loving acts of kindness. Look at the Bible’s alternative to tolerating sin:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” – Titus 1:13

“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” – Titus 2:15

Pointing out sin is never easy. In the Old Testament, the prophets were primarily used of God to rebuke the sins of Israel, and their lives were marked by suffering because of their message. When the sin that we love is attacked, the typical response is to retaliate against the messenger.

Yet we must understand that rebuking sin is the most loving action we can take toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Regardless of what sin (omission or commission) that Sardis found itself in, it died as a church because it did not “put to death” sin (Rom. 8:13).

And like Sardis, there are only two options for every church and its members: either let sin kill us by tolerating it, or put to death sin through repentance.

Should Christians Pray Against Satan Directly?

This past weekend I watched the newest Christian movie, War Room. To be honest, I am absolutely one of the worst people to see one of these kinds of films. As a person who deeply loves well-crafted narratives, such typically cheese-filled productions usually leave my gut wrenching. However, I found War Room to be surprisingly pleasant. No, it was not a masterpiece of cinema, but as a film that urged believers to toil daily in prayer, I actually enjoyed it. I would even go so far as to say that I recommend it.

However, the aim of this discussion is upon an aspect of the film that I did not appreciate. Allow me to set the scene. Our protagonist has finally resolved to fight in prayer for her husband and her marriage. Her prayer begins in her closet (one of the film’s war rooms), but she proceeds to walk throughout the house as her prayer becomes more fervent. Soon she begins to speak to Satan directly, declaring that he has no authority over her or her family. The music swells throughout, and all in all, the scene is the turning point of the film. The prayer works, and her husband is miraculously kept from committing adultery that very evening.

My issue with this scene is not the passionate, emotional prayer. Most of our prayers likely need a good dose of fervor. I also have no problem with the protagonist praying for her husband and marriage. Biblically, we are called to intercede in prayer for all people, so we should certainly do so for our loved ones.[1] Rather, I do take issue with the notion of praying directly against Satan. Let us, therefore, discuss why I find this thought to be unbiblical.

To Rebuke or Not to Rebuke?

First, consider the nature of Satan. Though he has legions of demonic forces at his disposal, Satan is nothing like God. He is not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. This means that Satan cannot hear our thoughts, and he cannot be in more than one place at a time. Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5 clearly affirm demonic hostility throughout our walk with Christ, yet it is quite unrealistic to continually assume that Satan is directly antagonizing us. Therefore, if we speak directly to Satan himself, most likely we are merely speaking to the open air or to demonic cohorts.

Next, note how Michael rebukes Satan in the book of Jude. The half-brother of Jesus writes in verse nine about Michael the archangel battling Satan for the body of Moses. Since Michael is the only angel that we know to be designated as an archangel, we could assume that if any heavenly being had the power to confront Satan directly, it would be him. However, Jude tells us that Michael “did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”[2] The archangel, when battling Satan, relied upon the Lord to rebuke the devil. In fact, Jude’s reason for mentioning this event is because there were false teachers in his day that were blaspheming “all that they do not understand.”[3] The lesson being that we must not throw around weighty pronouncements against beings that we do not fully comprehend.

The sons of Sceva are a great examples of this thought. In Acts 19:11-20, the author, Luke, tells us about seven sons of Sceva encountering a demon-possessed man. These men were itinerant exorcists who heard of the great miracles that the apostles were doing by the name of Jesus. Because of this, they decided to invoke Jesus’ name as well, saying, “I adjure by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”[4] After saying this to one demon-possessed man, the evil spirit said back to them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”[5] They are then beaten by the demon-possessed man and run away naked. This shows that the name of Jesus is not a magical mantra by which demons are forced to obey, and that we must not treat spiritual matters flippantly. Without knowing Jesus in a relationship, speaking His name will do us no good, and of course, the only way to grow in knowing Jesus is through the Scriptures and prayer.

Now let us approach the matter of spiritual warfare. If we are strongly exhorted by Jude to be careful in our accusations against the Accuser (which is the meaning of “Satan”), how then should we fight? After all, Paul does clearly tell us that we are wrestling against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” In Ephesians 6:13-20, the apostle describes our battle armor; however, Paul emphasizes that our armor’s primary usage is being “able to withstand” and “to stand firm.”[6] He speaks far more of defense than offense, and James seems to agree with him: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”[7]

How to Fight Spiritually… Biblically

I am not, however, suggesting that spiritual warfare is all defense; instead, it seems that Paul speaks primarily of three offensive tactics for combating the “spiritual forces of evil” in Ephesians 6.[8]

1. Study the Word

The only offensive weapon in the armor of God is the sword, which Paul states is the Word of God. Our primary action for fighting the devil and/or sin should be going to the Scriptures. If we doubt the importance of the Bible in battling Satan, we need to look no further than Jesus. In Matthew 4, we read about Jesus being tempted by the devil after fasting for forty days and forty nights. Satan tried three times to cause Jesus to sin.[9] Each time, Jesus answer Satan by citing Scripture. It is interesting that even Jesus never enters into a lengthy dialogue with the devil; rather, He simply falls upon the Word of God. We must understand that the Bible is sufficient for resisting the devil. Too often Jesus’ words to the Sadducees could also be said of us: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”[10]  Therefore, let us be quick to read, study, memorize, and meditate upon the Word of God.

2. Pray in the Spirit

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul urges us to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” In resisting the devil, we must be a people of prayer. But what does Paul mean by praying in the Spirit at all times? To reach an answer, we must understand the Holy Spirit’s role when we pray. Prayer is naturally trinitarian. The entire Godhead is involved in our prayers. We pray to the Father, through our only mediator, Jesus. But what about the Spirit? Romans 8 tells us that “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”[11] The role of the Holy Spirit is to intercede on our behalf, aligning us with the will of the Father. Furthermore, we are told that the Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”[12] Thus, all of our prayers should be in the Spirit because He teaches us how to pray the will of God and affirms that we are God’s children. Praying to the Father, through Jesus, with the Spirit, is one of the greatest blessings that we have as followers of Christ. Because the Spirit allows us to come to God as our Father, why would we ever waste time trying to speak directly with Satan instead of praying to the omnipotent God who calls us His children?

3. Proclaim the Gospel Boldly

Paul gives us the third weapon of warfare in Ephesians 6:19-20: proclaiming the gospel. The apostle requests that the Ephesians pray for him to boldly declare the “mystery of the gospel.” Because the gospel is the centerpiece of the entire Bible, this one should not come as a surprise, yet sadly, it probably does. Jesus came into the world, not to cast out demons or even heal the sick, but to proclaim the gospel. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”[13] The only way to truly press back against “this present darkness” is by expanding the kingdom of God. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus left us with very clear instructions to follow until He returns: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”[14] Go, make disciples, baptize, and teach, that is the game plan for every Christian, and we can only do so through proclaiming the gospel. Far more important than denouncing Satan in prayer is proclaiming and exalting Jesus to others. That is how the kingdom of God will increase and the kingdom of darkness decrease.

The End of the Matter

Once again, let me reiterate: I really enjoyed War Room. It challenges Christians to go spend more time in prayer, which is, for me, a win. However, the notion of directly praying against or rebuking Satan simply is not biblical. Instead of fighting Satan by declaring our victory over him again and again, let’s actually expand the kingdom of God by diving into the Scriptures, praying to the Father, and proclaiming the gospel to anyone that will listen. At least to me, that just sounds like a better plan.

[1] 1 Timothy 2:1

[2] Jude 9

[3] Jude 10

[4] Acts 19:13

[5] Acts 19:15

[6] Ephesians 6:13

[7] James 4:7

[8] I anticipate some people arguing that because Jesus and the apostles directly engaged demons that we should understand this as a call to do likewise. However, we are never commanded to deal with evil spirits like Jesus or the apostles did, but we are called numerous times to resist the devil, to hold fast to and proclaim the Word of God, and to prayer to the Father. I submit, therefore, that this is how spiritual warfare ought to be fought.

[9] By the way, it is worth noting that the only real power that Satan has over us is through our sin. He cannot directly cause anyone to be thrown in hell; rather, Satan can only lure us toward sin, hoping to capture us in its snare.

[10] Matthew 22:29

[11] Romans 8:27

[12] Romans 8:16

[13] Mark 1:15

[14] Matthew 28:19-20a