BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER
In the message on faith this past week, we looked at is known as the Battle of Kings in Genesis 14. In this story, there is an alliance of five kings who go up against another alliance of four kings. It so happens that Abram’s nephew Lot, who is living in Sodom, gets caught in the crossfire, and as a result is taken captive. Interestingly, Abram appears ready for this development. He has 318 mini-Rambo’s that are “born in his house” who are ready to go on a commando raid with Abram to rescue his captured nephew, which he does.
This is the first time in the Bible that the words “war” and “fight” occur, but it will certainly not be the last. There will be almost a hundred different battles described in the Old Testament. The narrative of the New Testament is one of peacetime, however, there is still “warfare” imagery used throughout and a climatic War in Heaven in Revelation chapter 12.
From the Battle of the Kings in Genesis to the War in Heaven in Revelation, we recognize that the Bible is brutally frank about the reality of conflict and that these struggles have a Satanic origin. In Genesis 3:15, God declares to Satan who deceived Eve and caused sin to enter the world, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Thus it is not surprising that the Apostle Paul will use these “warfare” metaphors to describe what a walk of faith looks like. Here are just a few of many examples:
— Ephesians 6:11,16-17, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” / “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
— 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
— 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith.”
— 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Our faith in the gospel is accepting and living in the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ paid an atonement for our sins through his death and resurrection and that we can live in freedom from sin and thus have fellowship with Almighty God. All of this is called in Romans 1:16 the “power of God.” It is a power from within, continually renewing our hearts to follow the divine pathway given to us for abundant living, but it is also a power to deal with an evil and fallen world, fueled by the “enmity” that Satan has for God and His people.
And this is the battle of faith that we all face. In Hebrews 11, where the great heroes of faith are being listed and described, there is an overall picture given later in the chapter that includes in v. 33-34, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” Notice that in almost the same breath, the author describes the faith that can “enforce justice” and “obtain promises” also “conquered kingdoms” and be “mighty in war” and “put foreign armies to flight.”
Many non-believers find the prevalence of military imagery in the Bible very disturbing. It appears to go against the message of love and forgiveness. But what the unbelieving world does not accept is the cosmic battle that Satan is fighting and God’s people must engage. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange was happening to you.”
No, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the norm. Our enemy, the devil, will throw everything at us with the singular purpose of bringing down our faith. Through church history, some great men of God have written on this. Pastor Raphael alluded to the classic Puritan book by Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” is almost a tool book on fighting this fight of faith. John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress” has an amazing story of spiritual warfare when Christian confronts Apollyon, symbolic of the devil. Similar to Brooks, Bunyan shows Satan’s devices by trying to make sin look promising, pointing to the trials and hardships of following Christ, pointing out to Christian his own failings and sin, and finally attacking Christian’s motives for following Christ.
Faith in the gospel is what defeats every attack of our Enemy, and he knows it. Satan has no answer for the gospel. Our faith brings us hope and victory, and in living it we have peace and joy. Hold on to this promise, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)