Saturday, December 01, 2007

Spiritual Warfare (Part 4 of 6)

Continued from Part 3 of 6

The seminal passage on spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6:10-18. It teaches us that we have spiritual weapons to protect against and defeat the enemy. The next go-to passage is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which teaches us that the battle field of spiritual warfare is in the mind, and that the gates of hell are wicked strongholds built there.

Let’s work the passages in reverse.

Strongholds: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – The word for stronghold, ὀχύρωμα, is found 73 times in the LXX, usually describing a military fortification. The word occurs once in the NT – here. What is curious is that Paul’s terminology moves quickly from battlefield warfare in verses 3 & 4 to psychological warfare in verse 5: “We destroy arguments and every high thought that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every perception unto submission to Christ.”

Why does he do that? To point to the real battlefield – the mind.

But what does Paul mean by a stronghold?

Singapore is the wealthy gateway to Southeast Asia, yet with all its Western influence, I was often struck by the spirit houses in nearly every neighborhood yard. These spirit houses look like elaborate bird houses, but they were not designed for birds. They are residences provided to familiar spirits. Every morning, the homeowners place rice as an offering to the spirit who lives in the spirit house. The offering is a request for the household spirits to protect the house and children from harm.

Aside from the fact that I don’t need a god I have to feed and house, I can say I learned something important about spiritual warfare from the spirit houses in Singapore. The Lord used them to help me understand 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Wicked strongholds[1] are like those spirit houses. They are spiritual constructs in the mind built by an ungodly, sinful way of thinking, a kind of spiritual habitation which welcomes demonic presence.

A wicked stronghold is not a demon or group of demons. They are the inhabitants of a wicked stronghold. A wicked stronghold is not sin or iniquity. Rather, they are the construction materials of a wicked stronghold built through willful, thinking, and sinning (James 1:13-15) disobedience to God.

Now let’s look at how these strategies are overcome.

Continued in Part 5 of 6.

[1] There are also holy strongholds. The Bible has a lot to say about holy strongholds as well, the chief among them being the Lord Himself (Psalm 18:2; 27:1; 43:2; 2 Samuel 22:3; Joel 3:16). "A holy stronghold is a place of safety from the enemy. . . . A stronghold may be any inaccessible place of refuge, especially an elevated one." [Colossians 3:1-3] The KJV generally uses "high tower" rather than the NIV's and other versions' "stronghold." . . . In the narrative and prophetic books, strongholds are literal places of military refuge, while in Psalms they tend to be metaphors for God.” Ryken, Wilhoit, Longman, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 822.