“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” — 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV)
The church today is divided over many issues, including war. Christians who are against any and all wars for any and all reasons usually dislike hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Do dedicated pacifists greet scriptures that talk about “our warfare” with equal comfort and disapproval? I hope not.
Neither hymn nor the scriptures have anything to do with the kind of war where people take up arms for the purpose of killing people on the other side. Regardless of what anyone thinks of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, or any other war, “our warfare” is something else entirely.
In Christ, we have no human enemies that we must defeat and kill. In fact, Jesus equated inappropriate anger with murder. If we have bad relationships with other people, individually or as a group, we mustn’t even think about killing them! On the other hand, no one who has ever walked the earth has avoided the kind of war Paul had in mind. In the war between heaven and hell, between God and Satan, our minds are the battlefield.
The creation account in the book of Genesis describes how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, disobeying God and obeying the serpent (Satan). Satan usurped the authority God gave Adam, and God did not take it back. Unfortunately, Adam, the entire human race in that account, must now exercise that authority in obedience to Satan rather than God.
By the death and resurrection of Jesus, God defeated Satan in the heavenly places. Now, as I say, everyone’s mind becomes a battlefield that will decide whether we will live in God’s grace or continue to obey Satan. We will always find it easier and more convenient to obey Satan. He keep us focusing attention on what our bodies can sense, know, and desire. Just as he deceived Eve in the garden, so he works to deceive everyone else.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law — Galatians 5:19-23.
Look at that first list! Doesn’t it constitute a complete source of what causes conflict between people? Isn’t that why, despite the most ardent pleas of pacifists, someone has been at war somewhere in every generation of humans who have ever lived? And it’s called the works of the flesh. We work for wages, and “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” — Romans 6:23.
On the other hand, the second list in the Galatians passage is called “fruit.” Producing fruit is not work. Bearing fruit pays no wages. The fruit is the gift of grace. We can’t do anything to earn it, but unfortunately we have to fight for it. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, that is, not flesh. We use spiritual weapons, issued by God, for the sake of fighting in our minds, with God at our side, against Satan so as not to earn the wages he pays and not to let him steal the gifts of grace.