Jesus said “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). It is true that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). And it is true that He is our peace (Eph. 2:14-15). He came so that we might have peace with God through Himself (Rom. 5:1). Yet there is never really a true peace until there is first a complete and total victory over the enemy (cf. Matt. 12:29). As Alexander Campbell observed, “Hence the Prince of Peace never sheathed the sword of the Spirit while he lived. He drew it on the banks of the Jordan and threw the scabbard away” (“Religious Controversy,” Millennial Harbinger, 1830).
The apostle Paul said we are engaged in a war but it is not a war after the flesh, that is, not a physical war with material weapons (II Cor. 10:3). But it is a war, nevertheless. It is a spiritual war. Since the beginning of time, satan has attempted to lead a rebellion against the God of heaven. Down through the ages, beginning with Adam and Eve, he has enlisted men in this battle, most of whom unwittingly joined his ranks. The god of this world has beguiled people into being a friend of this world, which makes them the enemy of God (James 4:4).
Paul described his work as an apostle as pulling down strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:4,5). These things are much harder than taking up a sword and trying to remove an enemy from a geographical territory. We are trying to remove sinful, rebellious thoughts from people’s minds and replace them with obedient, righteous thoughts (I Peter 4:1; Phil. 2:5; etc.).
As Christians, we also fight the good fight of faith (I Tim. 6:12; II Tim. 4:7). In order to fight this fight to win, we must array ourselves with the appropriate armor. When David went out to fight Goliath, he could not wear Saul’s armor, for he had not proved them (I Sam. 17:39). In order to win this battle, we must put on proven armor, the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:13). That is, our loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness; our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; taking the shield of faith, and taking the helmet of salvation and, last but not least, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17). These are the weapons that win this war.
Paul said this spiritual war involved casting down imaginations. In Noah’s day, man’s ability to imagine got him into serious trouble. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Man has, down through the centuries, devised every kind of sin imaginable. Paul said of the ancient world, that “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21,22). Romans chapter one lists many of the horrendous sins that man has devised (Rom. 1:19-32). We fight to cast down these imaginations in ourselves and in others.
When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations (Jer. 1:5), He put His words in his mouth and said that he set him over the nations and kingdoms to “root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jer. 1:10). This “pulling down” was accomplished by means of his words, inspired words, the word of God. Just as the Lord defeated the devil in the temptation with the word of God (Matt. 4:1-11), so we defeat the devil by the sword of the spirit, the word of God.
Not only did the Lord defeat satan with His words, He triumphed over and spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, through His cross (Col. 2:14,15). It had been prophesied even in the garden that the woman’s seed, Jesus (Gal. 4:4), would bruise the serpent’s head, that is, give it mortal wound (Gen. 3:15). Jesus came into this world for this purpose–to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8; cf. John 12:31; 16:11; Heb. 2:14,15).
One of the great scenes in all the Bible is found in the book of Revelation. In chapter twelve we have a scene of a great battle and though satan attacks the Lord’s church, he is defeated, unable to prevail, cast out and cast down (Rev. 12:1-10). In chapter twenty, the devil, though he persecuted the camp of the saints, the church, is cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:19-21). The good news is, we know who wins this one. All we need to decide now is for which side do we fight.
Eric L. Padgett