To Battle with the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer!

I have had the privilege and challenge of discipleship by Christians from several Church traditions. I am privileged because God has shown me loving correction and teaching through these brothers. Moreover God has used these brothers to introduce me to powerful doctrines that I would never have heard otherwise. For example I was directed to study Ephesians and learned that God elected to save us from before the foundation of the world apart from even our consciousness, much less our works. This doctrine was to me like a triple dose of Syrup of Ipecac for the soul, a revolting medicine to empty the bowels of hypocrisy. Brothers, there is no other doctrine like it to propel a rebel sinner to lay his life, even all of mankind’s history, naked before Holy God. Swallow it for yourself and be cured!! I was also encouraged to study God’s covenants with man to learn that the Christian now stands under a new and better covenant. Yet strangely enough some prefer to remain at Mount Sinai under the old covenant. Paul himself expresses appall about this in Galatians 3:1-5. Also challenging has been becoming sincere friends with those of various church traditions without simply over looking important differences. God help us press toward a fellowship that upholds the word of Christ! In this paper I would like to discuss my views of another powerful doctrine that I maintain from the Alma Mater church of my youth. To be specific what are the weapons of the Christian’s warfare?
An Introduction to War
You can join the military and learn much about the theories of warfare. However, there is one important fact about war that can only be learned from Ephesians 6:12 (WEB).
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 
Notice there are two wars raging across the world. The first is war between men. The second is war between Satan’s forces and mankind. Enough said for now.
The Bloody God of Battle in the Old Testament
Many pacifists imagine that God is appalled at the death of men in warfare. I argue instead that God is also the God of bloody battles! In Genesis Chapter 14 our father Abraham led 318 armed men into battle to rescue Lot. Joshua, Israel’s leader, was commanded by God to destroy the Canaanite men, women, young, and old, leaving no survivors. Judges is filled with stories of mighty men fighting pagan nations by the will of God. Elijah, the prophet of God, slaughtered 450 prophets of Baal in the Kishon Valley. Consider David, a man after God’s own heart! David killed Goliath. David killed 200 Philistines as dowry for his first wife. David became so famous that people sang, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands.” Yet, as a foreshadowing, David was prohibited from building the temple because he was a man of war. Finally we read in Psalm 104:29, “you take away their breath: they die, and return to the dust.”  Friend, God is not afraid of death. In fact, God himself is the cause of all death, including death in war. Each of us will die on the day of his choosing by the means of his choosing. Of course if your faith is in God you can take great courage that Christ will be with you even in your death.
God’s Commission to the State in the New Testament
Other pacifists would argue that God ordained war in the Old Testament, but not in the New Testament. Yet a brief study of Scripture will reveal that this answer is incomplete. Consider Romans 13:1-5 (WEB),
1) Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. 2) Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. 3) For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the authority, 4) for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. 5) Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
This Scripture plainly says that God has ordained the state to wield the sword to punish evil doers. I understand this to include both capital punishment and the waging of warfare. Note also, Jesus commends a Roman Centurion’s faith and does not rebuke his military occupation in Matthew 8:5-13.
Thus I believe the state is ordained to wield the sword in capital punishment and war even under the New Covenant dispensation. However, the state must also be warned that there is no rejoicing in this commission, but instead great fear. Isaiah, who was eventually sawed in half for his ministry, prophesied that God would use Assyria to punish the wickedness of the Israelites. Assyria was then called by God to destroy the Northern Israeli Kingdom. Isaiah then tells us in Isaiah 10:12-19, that Assyria became proud because of their victory and so God decided to severely punish them as well through Babylon. Thus God has ordained the state to wield the sword, but God’s sovereign dealings with nations in this arena are well beyond the power and wisdom of man.
Christian Participation in State War Functions?
Now let us reconsider the question “what are the Christian’s weapons of warfare?” and “may a Christian participate in the state war function?” I remind us that in Ephesians 6:12, quoted above, Paul states “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood.” I interpret that though there are two wars, the Christian is called solely to spiritual war. A further study of Ephesians 6:10-20 reveals the weapons of our warfare to be 1) the belt of truth, 2) the breastplate of righteousness, 3) feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel, 4) the shield of faith, 5) the helmet of salvation, 6) the sword of the Spirit, and 7) prayer. These spiritual weapons when used by believers in Christ are a 1,000 fold more effective in the long run to subdue evil men and nations than the steel sword. If you are still unconvinced, consider four more points from Scripture.
Point 1: A Thorough Change of Covenants
The book of Hebrews explains that there has been a wonderful change of covenants from the old covenant given at Mount Sinai to the new covenant given at Mount Calvary. Consider Hebrews 8:13 (WEB), “In that he says, "A new covenant", he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away.” If there has been a change of covenants it is fair to ask what is different? God commanded Israel to wage war under the old covenant and blessed them for their obedience. Does God now command Christians to wage war against their enemies? The answer is yes, but against different enemies!
Point 2: Enemies and Weapons Contrasted
Consider the enemies of God’s people in the Old Testament. Abraham fought against Kedorlaomer. Lot resisted Sodom and Gormorah. Elijah fought the prophets of Baal, Ahab, and Jezebel. Joshua defeated the Canaanites. Samuel and the judges fought the Philistines. David fought all of Israel’s enemies. Their weapons were spears, swords, bows, arrows, and more.
Though every one of these people listed above is an enemy of God by nature, under the new covenant every single one of them is also a potential brother or sister in the Lord! Who then is the enemy we fight? We all have two spiritual foes. First our closest foe is our own destructive sinful nature. Second, Satan’s forces are lying in wait to recruit us to evil against our good God and his people. Only the Christian has weapons to war against our sin nature and Satan as listed above.
Point 3: Jesus Christ’s Example
Which war did Jesus fight? What weapons did he use? Jesus used Scripture and his own word to preach against evil in mankind. We see a sermon against sin in Matthew Chapter 23. Jesus also prayed to the Father for support. We see an example of Christ’s prayer life in John Chapter 17. Jesus also refused to call upon legions of warrior angels for protection. Matthew 26:53 (WEB) says, “Or do you think that I couldn't ask my Father, and he would even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Christ’s example proves that he fought a spiritual war with spiritual weapons. But did he explicitly teach on this subject? In Christ’s final hour in Gethsemane we see a final rebuke to his disciples. Peter lifts a sword to protect Jesus from harm. But poor Peter was still blind as a bat to Christ’s purpose. Perhaps Peter had visions of striking down evildoers even in his own family just like Moses and Joshua at the foot of Mount Sinai. But Peter, we are no longer at the foot of Mount Sinai!! Christ came to die for the sin of every man! Christ rebuked his disciples saying, “...Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52 WEB). Jesus has begun a new covenant with a new way to fight evil. Are you interested in fighting evil with spiritual weapons and with the cross of Christ?
Point 4: Paul’s Example
Some feel it unfair to compare our lives to Christ in this matter. After all we do not have the commission to die for the sins of the world like Christ. Ok. Let’s consider the example of Apostle Paul. Which war did Paul fight? What weapons did he use? Paul was called to suffer. In Acts 9:16 (WEB) we read, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake."  Paul suffered without retaliation or trusting in the state for deliverance from his suffering. In Acts 14:19-20 (WEB) we read, “But some Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there, and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul, and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But as the disciples stood around him, he rose up, and entered into the city. On the next day he went out with Barnabas to Derbe.” Paul rejoiced in sufferings. He says in Colossians 1:24 (WEB), “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the assembly.” Paul counted his life worth less than nothing except to be used of God to save others. He says in Romans 9:3 (WEB), ”For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers' sake, my relatives according to the flesh.” Paul also fought a spiritual war using spiritual weapons. Against every comfortable notion of following Christ, Paul laid his very flesh on the chopping block of humanity for the sake of the gospel. What could propel a man to such passion? You can have this same passion for the lost by simply testifying that unbelievers go to hell for their sins and the only reason you do not is because of the grace of Christ.
Point 5: Early Church Example
The early church, closest to Jesus and the Apostles also excluded themselves from miltary service.  Worthy is the Lamb by Ray Summers makes a point of this fact in the introduction of his commentary on Revelation.  Read it for yourself here.
Fearful Disciples
Recently a Christian told me they liked my view because they did not want to go to war. Unfortunately they misunderstand my view. Frankly it would be much more comfortable to meet my enemies while I held an M16 or after I lobbed a few missiles over their borders. But instead I advocate walking into my enemy’s living room with no defense except the Bible and the prayer that he would become a brother in Christ’s family. Friends, we have no choice about going to war. We are in the midst of war whether we like it or not. The enemies of Christ are truly enemies by nature. They back-bite, hate, steal, lie, and kill with no qualm of conscience. The question is how should Christians fight against such hatred? Brothers, I myself was won by grace.
The Death of the Wicked
What about the wicked lost in battle? Is there rejoicing when God ordains the death of wicked? Since coming to Christ I count all men everywhere my brothers, at least according to the flesh. If God ends the life of the wicked I would count it a shame that they never experienced God’s grace as I have. I also press on in the spiritual war by following the example of Christ and Paul to take the good news to lost humanity. God himself says, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" says the Lord Yahweh; "and not rather that he should return from his way, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23 WEB). How can a Christian sit on his sofa and rejoice when a nation conquerors an enemy land saying, “Perhaps God will use this to advance the gospel!” How foolish! Since when do Christians depend on the state to fulfill the great commission through military conquest? What hope does the state have to offer the lost? Democracy? Can Democracy save us from the impending wrath of God? God may very well pave a road for the gospel through war or any plan of his choosing. But did it ever occur to you that you do not need to wait for war to get your body of the sofa and find the means to take the good news of the gospel to your enemy?
To Battle with the Sword of the Spirit and Prayer
For these reasons I am registered as a Christian Conscientious Objector to warfare in my country. For these reasons I am also not a pacifist, but instead press on to fight the good fight for Jesus Christ using spiritual weapons to fight a deadly spiritual war. For the sake of Christ and his commission I am excused from service in the wars of this earth to serve in the wars of heaven.
3) For though we walk in the flesh, we don't wage war according to the flesh; 4) for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, 5) throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (WEB)
Christ be with you and your family.
P.S. – October 2009
Last Saturday I heard my Pastor and several good friends play in a live band at a Christian community event. They are evening and weekend musicians, but sounded like pros! Everyone appreciated how they helped turn the entire event to the glory of God through worship and praise music. One song was particularly well done and also a fitting conclusion for the points made in this article, Hope to Carry On by Rich Mullins. The lyrics follow.
Hope to Carry on - Rich Mullins
I can see Jesus hanging on a cross
I can see Jesus hanging on a cross
Oh, I can see Jesus hanging on a cross
He came looking for the lost
And love has come
Love has come
Love has come
And given me hope to carry on
I can hear Jesus saying Father forgive (Father forgive)
I can hear Jesus saying Father forgive (Father forgive them)
I can hear Jesus saying Father forgive
And what a thing He did
Love has come
Love has come
Love has come
And given me hope to carry on
And I can see love
Love is all I want to see
It can make a beggar rich
It can set a prisoner free
I know He can do it for you
God knows He did it for me
And I can see love
And love is all I want to show you
Love`s the only way to go
And love
But love is all a man might need to know
This I know
And you know Peter put away his sword
I can see Peter putting away his sword
Well I can see Peter put away his sword
He won`t fight no more
Love has come
Love has come
Love has come
And given me hope to carry on
To carry on, To carry on