Contributor: Leye Olayiwola
We will continue today in the Spiritual Warfare Series as we discuss and deliberate on another interesting and intriguing question – “Do Christians Wrestle with Demons?” During our discussions last week, we learnt, with appropriate scriptural references that some of what is being taught in the area of spiritual warfare and demonology is scripturally in error. We discovered that most, if not all of the scriptures where war and warfare were mentioned has nothing to do with the Devil but more to do with putting the flesh under and controlling our thought life. We also learnt that we are not a Warring Army but an Occupying Army. Today’s lesson will shed more lights on these truths.
1. Do Christians Wrestle With Demons?
We have been able to see in the epistles, following from last week’s lesson, that the words “war” and “warfare” are used to describe conflicts between the flesh and the mind and between the flesh and the recreated spirit. So what does the Bible have to say about "wrestling"? Does the New Testament teach that believers need to wrestle with demons?
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
Let’s consider this scripture in the context of other scriptural references.
• “Wrestling” denotes strenuous effort, doesn't it? According to these scriptures, we do "wrestle" against the devil; we do have the devil to deal with in life. But read that verse of Scripture in context with the whole counsel of God's Word—that Jesus defeated Satan for us and redeemed us from Satan's dominion.
• Well, does the scriptural word for "wrestling" mean war? No, certainly not. There is a vast difference between wrestling and warring. If you've ever seen a wrestling match, you know there is a vast difference between wrestling and fighting a war.
• One of the meanings of the word "wrestle" in W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words is to sway. If we will let him, the enemy will come against us and try to sway us and get us out of faith and into doubt and unbelief about the Word so he can defeat us. But if we stand our ground in faith, he cannot sway us from the Word. Therefore, the "wrestling" we do is not fighting the devil, but it is a "fight" sometimes to hold fast to our faith in God's Word. ["a wrestling" (akin to pallo, "to sway, vibrate"), is used figuratively in Eph. 6:12, of the spiritual conflict engaged in by believers, RV, "(our) wrestling," AV, "(we) wrestle."]
• You see, the term "wrestling" in Ephesians 6:12 is used figuratively, just as the word "run" is used figuratively in Hebrews 12:1: "... let us RUN with patience the race that is set before us." The Bible doesn't use the word "wrestle" to tell believers to get into heavy spiritual combat to wrestle against the devil in prayer. No, the Bible is trying to show believers that our opposition in this life comes from the spiritual realm and that we are not to fight against flesh and blood, but we are to take our stand on the Word of God and enforce our victory against a defeated foe.
• So if you don't read the entire context of this passage in Ephesians chapter 6, but only focus on verse 12, you can become confused and defeated because you'll think, I'm in for it! I've got to wrestle against all those principalities, powers, and forces of darkness in order to try to defeat them.
• By overemphasizing just that one verse alone rather than the whole counsel of God, people place the emphasis not on what Christ has already done for believers, but rather on what the Christian must yet do in order to get victory over the devil. That is unscriptural because every believer already participates in Jesus' victory over Satan.
• For example, read Ephesians 6:12, "We wrestle against principalities and power," and read that scripture with Colossians 2:15: “... having SPOILED principalities and powers, he [Jesus] made a shew of them openly, TRIUMPHING OVER THEM in it [the Cross].” And then look at Luke 10:19: “Behold, I give unto you [the Body of Christ] power to tread on serpents and scorpions [the devil and his evil forces], and over all the power of the enemy: and NOTHING SHALL BY ANY MEANS HURT YOU.”
• Yes, we are in a battle all right, but it's against principalities and powers that Jesus already defeated in his death, burial, and resurrection! Notice also in Luke 10:20 that Jesus admonished the disciples not to rejoice in their authority over the devil but to rejoice in their relationship with God and in the fact that their names are written in the Book of Life. So our focus is not to be on a battle with a defeated enemy, but it is to be on a relationship with a mighty and loving God.
2 Timothy 2: 3-6
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits."
• In these verses, Paul uses military, athletic, and agricultural terms to illustrate various aspects of the ministry.
• He uses the word "soldier" in verses 3 and 4 to depict the hardiness, discipline, and dedication it sometimes takes to fulfill the call of God.
• The expression, "striving for masteries" in verse 5 refers to winning first place in an athletic event. And the word "husbandman" refers to a farmer reaping a crop.
• So based on these scriptures taken out of context, if we're supposed to be a "militant" Church so we can fight the devil—then based on Second Timothy 2:3-6, we should also be an "athletic" Church and all come to church in sweatsuits, or we should be an "agricultural" Church and come dressed like farmers!
2. Wrestling In the Spiritual Realm
The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ just needs to learn to stay balanced. Overemphasizing just one scripture to the exclusion of others or exalting something other than God's Word, including unbiblical practices, can get believers off on doctrinal tangents. A person can take any Bible subject and overemphasize it and make the Bible say something it really doesn't say. That's what some Christians have done with this issue of "wrestling" the devil. They have resorted to using fleshly tactics such as yelling and screaming at the devil to try to "defeat" him. But the wrestling the believer does against the forces of evil is not done in the natural realm with fleshly tactics. It's done in the spiritual realm by faith in the Word.
Some believers are even taking the scripture about wicked spirits in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12) out of context and advocating that we have to get up higher physically in order to do battle with the wicked spirits in the heavenlies in prayer! What they really need to do is get down where the real battle is—in the mind and flesh! Not only that, but the Bible says, “... Whatsoever ye shall bind ON EARTH shall be bound in heaven ….” (Matt. 18:18), and “... if two of you shall agree ON EARTH as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). The Bible says we are to do these things on earth; it never mentions that we have to get up into the spiritual atmosphere to try to deal with the devil! All that Jesus and the disciples accomplished, they accomplished on the earth, not up in heavenlies above the earth. We are already far above principalities and powers in our position in Christ.
“which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” [Ephesians 1:20-21]
“ even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” [Ephesians 2:5-6]
A scriptural reference can be found in Acts 16 where the story is told of Paul and Silas.
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” [Acts 6:25-26]
Right here on earth, at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, and God heard and delivered them (Acts 16:25). You see, praying and singing praises is a type of scriptural "wrestling" in the spiritual realm because you have to stay in faith to do it! And because God responds to faith (Heb. 11:6), He reached down and shook that old jail and delivered Paul and Silas.
We are not at war against the Devil. He is already a defeated foe! Thank God for the victory that Christ has won for us. Remember, we are NOT a “Warring Army” but an “Occupying” One. All that is required of us is to stand our grounds and refuse to be “swayed” out of faith into unbelief by the Devil’s antics. Also, we don't need to get up into the heavenlies to deal with evil spirits! We ought to be interested in tapping into the power of God that's already available to us as believers right here on earth! Yes, the word "wrestling" shows us that there is a spiritual conflict between the believer and the devil. But the wrestling is done in the arena of faith—in the spiritual realm—not in the natural realm. It is a fight based on standing firmly on the promises in God's Word and on the finished work of our redemption.