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Offensive Spiritual Warfare

Offensive Spiritual Warfare

Shifting from Defense to Attack in the Realm of Spiritual Battles

Mitchell Leach

Community Pastor

Peace Church

Published On:

February 14, 2024

Spiritual warfare is a topic that Christians either think too much or not enough about. We’ve all met Christians who attribute every bad thing in their lives to spiritual warfare, so much so that there is no more room for sin or our fallen nature. On the other side, there are Christians who nearly disregard the reality that there is an enemy out there who seeks to kill steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

Not Just For Defense

One of the greatest mistakes in understanding spiritual warfare is putting ourselves on the defense against Satan. I believe this is what he wants us to believe. It only gives him the advantage if we believe that he has the edge in our world and he is launching assaults against Christians and the church. While it’s true that Satan will launch attacks on us, we must realize that this is not how the Bible paints the picture of what is happening in the spiritual reality.

As Jesus was teaching his disciples, he asked them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is.” After Peter answered, Matthew records Jesus saying this to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”

Jesus is saying something about spiritual warfare that we have often overlooked. If you're not familiar with battle tactics, it can be easy to miss the fact that gates are used for defense, not offense.

Far too many pastors preach that we must protect ourselves from the evil one and his schemes. While it’s appropriate to be on guard, the picture of spiritual warfare the Bible gives us is one that should bring hope and encouragement to us. We’re the ones who get to advance against evil and wage war on hell itself. Too often the scene that is set for us is one where we cower in the corner as Satan and his forces attack and we just hope that we can make it long enough until Jesus comes back.

In his book The Invisible Hand, author, pastor, and theologian, R.C. Sproul says, “The basic premise of Scripture is that the power of Christ is greater than the power of the devil and his domain. Therefore, Christians need not live their lives in fear of Satan's power but ought rather to rejoice in Christ's victory over him.”

Christians can have confidence in God, all too often we can believe that somehow God and Satan are opposing forces who are equal in power. But scripture reveals that God is all-powerful even over the actions of Satan and his forces. We then have every reason to be encouraged knowing that even Satan’s plans have been accounted for by God and will be used for ultimate good, and will lead to Satan’s ultimate demise.

Church is a base not a haven

With this view, it is easy to believe that culture is so far gone and under Satan’s control. We are easily deceived that we need to huddle together to weather the storm of life. While we need to band together it isn’t because otherwise we’ll be torn apart by Satan’s attack. It is so that we can mount a strong attack on evil and the gates of Hell. The American church has — unfortunately — believed that it is a safe haven for weary Christians. While it needs to be a safe place for us, this must be because we are a base, an outpost of the kingdom. It is a launch point for us to make our attack against the evil we see in the world. It is the place where we come to get our battle plans on how we will take back the creation that was lost to sin, death, and evil. It’s the place we come back to remember how powerful our God is. And to remember that we carry with us that same power by the Holy Spirit.

John Owen a prominent English theologian in the 1600’s wrote this in his book The Mortification of Sin, ”What a comfort this is to believers, that all the power of Satan is under the control of our Captain, who is the Lord of hosts, the Lord mighty in battle! The enemy is mighty, but he is mightier; he is strong, but he is stronger; he is active, but he is more active.”

God is sovereign and we know he has already won. Therefore we cannot be timid people afraid of culture, we must be courageous Christians who are ready to take back the culture by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think this is a desire that is lying dormant in the church as a whole. Men — in particular — are attracted to a message that says “Go and take what is ours.” Yet instead of fear-mongering people into political action, scripture is exhorting Christians to go into their local communities and wage war by proclaiming the gospel and loving our neighbors.

Satan’s strategy

One of the dangers of believing we’re on defense while we’re supposed to be on offense is that it puts Christians in great danger.

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus’ battle against Hannibal during the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE) is probably the most famous example of how seemingly random and unpredictable attacks could take down a larger army. Hannibal's army was far superior on the open battlefield, employing innovative tactics and formidable cavalry that the Roman legions struggled to counter. Rather than engaging in direct, large-scale battles, Fabius adopted a strategy of harassment and attrition. The Fabian Strategy involved avoiding large-scale engagements and instead focusing on small, inconsistent attacks such as skirmishes, raids on supply lines, and ambushes. These attacks targeted Hannibal's army indirectly by cutting off its supplies and wearing down the troops through constant harassment. This approach was frustrating for Hannibal, as it denied him the decisive victories he sought to force Rome into a peace agreement favorable to Carthage. Over time, the attrition and inability to force a decisive battle took its toll on the Carthaginians, contributing to their eventual withdrawal from Italy.

This — in large part — is the same strategy that Satan uses to attack Christians. Spiritual warfare feels inconsistent. At least it does in my life. It’s not every day that I feel the attacks of Satan and his forces. It is so inconsistent that I get lulled into a false sense of security where I feel nothing will happen today.

Armor Of God On Attack

The challenge of putting our armor on when you’re not expecting an attack every day is that you’re not reminded you need it every day. This is why getting the perspective correct on our spiritual battles is so important.

Imagine yourself in a physical war. Imagine you are given plans for an attack on the enemy. As you get ready what do you do? You’d make sure to put on your armor, to grab your weapon.

When we accept the reality that we are the ones on the attack, we are the ones who have the advantage, how we live our lives will change with it.

So here’s my plea Christian. Go and prepare yourself for battle knowing you are taking the unlimited power of God as you are carried by the Holy Spirit. Know that you have the advantage, know you are on the attack, and know that Satan is the one who fears you. Arm yourself every day because you will need your weapon as you wage war against the evil in this world. But most of all know this, as you go “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 16:18.

  2. R.C. Sproul, The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1996)

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