Whether we realize it or not, we are all involved in a spiritual war. Thankfully, God has not left us to our own strategies or abilities. In this sermon from 1 John 4:1–6, David Platt exhorts us to trust in the truths of who Christ is and what He has accomplished for our salvation as we engage in spiritual battle. By the power of God, our victory is assured.
We have a lot of ground to cover today and I want to set up what we’re about to read in 1 John 4. I’m going to jump right into the first truth that I want you to see and hear from God’s Word today.
1. There is a spiritual world all around us.
I happen to be in 2 Kings in my personal Bible reading right now and I want to show you a story in chapter six. The story is about Elisha, who was a prophet of God, which means he spoke on behalf of God. He’s described in this story as “the man of God.” We’ll pick up this great story in 2 Kings 6:8:
Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.
When the king of Syria would make plans regarding his war with Israel, God would reveal those plans to Elisha, then Elisha would tell the king of Israel. Kind of unfair, right? Naturally, this did not make the king of Syria very happy. Verse 11: “And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, ‘Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?’” In other words, “Who’s the traitor here?”
And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
The servant is panicking and wakes Elisha up. “What are we going to do? There’s a whole army surrounding us.” Here’s how Elisha responds in verse 16: “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Pause there for a second. Elisha just said, “There are more of us than there are of them.” But get the picture. There are two guys in the house: Elisha and his servant. Outside there is a great army with horses and chariots. If you’re Elisha’s servant, you’re thinking, “The old guy has lost his mind. Maybe he’s a prophet, but he’s no mathematician. There are two of us and there are a whole lot more of them.” But listen to what happens:
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Elisha prays that God would open his servant’s eyes to see the spiritual army—the horses and chariots of fire surrounding them—and in that moment, the servant sees. He gets a glimpse of the unseen world and it totally changes his perspective. He realizes that the army of Syria is indeed outnumbered— not physically, but spiritually. In that moment, for the servant, the invisible became visible and everything changed.
And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.
What happens in the rest of the story? Elisha leads the Syrian army straight to the king of Israel, where all of them are immediately captured. Here’s the point and here’s why I want to share this story from the start today. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a lot going on around us that we do not see. There is a spiritual, invisible world around us that is just as real as the visible world, yet it is far more powerful. The Bible teaches there are vast numbers of angels, both good and bad, spirits that exist all around us. There are glorious beings right now that would take our breath away if we saw them. And there are evil beings that would horrify us right now if we could see them.
To most of our minds, that sounds crazy. We live in a rationalistic, naturalistic Western mindset that explains everything by what we can see. To say you believe in the existence of angels and demons is like saying you believe in dragons and elves. In our worldview, if you can’t see that realm, touch it, taste it, smell it, or hear it, therefore it doesn’t exist.
I mean, seriously, how can you believe a supernatural, spiritual God controls thunder and lightning, when meteorologists can use satellite pictures and computers to predict storms a week before they even happen. How can you say there’s a spiritual tempter engaging our wills in a battle of good and evil when we all know it’s the configurations of our DNA, or our family history, that lead down certain paths?
Our worldview has deadened us to the reality of the spiritual world. We see spiritual explanations of anything as total religious fancy. Think about C.S. Lewis’ classic Screwtape Letters, this dialog between an older demon and younger demon about how to tempt people. At one point the older demon says to Wormwood, the younger demon:
I do not think you’ll have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that devils are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that, he therefore cannot believe in you.
We usually think about spiritual explanations of events as crazy, or at the very least uncommon or weird. Maybe there’s some spiritual stuff happening through séances or Ouija boards or tarot cards, or maybe in some remote, less developed parts of the world—but not in everyday, middle class American life. And that’s the point. There are many places in the world where I would not have to do a set-up like this for 1 John 4, because they know there’s a spiritual world around us.
Sadly, many missionaries from the West have gone to places like that and tried to convince them otherwise. Lesslie Newbingin said that Christian missionaries have been one of the most secularizing forces in the world. We’ve gone into third-world contexts and taught people, “Crops growing? That has nothing to do with the spiritual. That’s just science.” We show them fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides and hybrid seed, then we tell them that spirituality has nothing to do with agriculture. It’s only science. To be clear, it’s not that science isn’t involved. It obviously is. But what we should have said is, “This is a supernaturally, God-created, God-sustained world. God has enabled us to learn how to put the right things together in accordance with how He has created them. When we do this, our supernatural God gives us good crops. Science is our natural observation of the way a supernatural God has made the world. All of this scientific order is maintained by His great sustaining power. The fruit we see in science is ultimately the work of Almighty God.”
But that’s not how we think. We don’t see the spiritualities that oversee and undergird and infiltrate everything—which is what the Bible teaches from end to end. From the very beginning in Genesis 3, spiritual temptation led to physically eating a piece of fruit. Think about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 4. He’s led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Revelation, the last book in the Bible, gives a clear spiritual picture of physical reality. This is all over the Bible, from cover to cover.
This means that if you don’t believe in the invisible spiritual world, then you are rejecting the Bible. And not just the Bible—you’re rejecting Jesus Himself. Jesus believed in angels and demons. His very conception was announced by an angel, as was His birth. He was tempted by the devil and He was served by angels after His temptation. He could have appealed to legions of angels at the cross. Angels were present at His tomb after He rose from the grave. They were present when He ascended into heaven. To ignore or disbelieve the spiritual world is to ignore or disbelieve Jesus Himself.
Here’s the danger. I think most of us, even as followers of Jesus who believe the Bible, don’t really think much about the spiritual world around us. Let me prove it to you.
Imagine you’re in a conversation with somebody that starts to lead to an argument. You start to lose control of your emotions. Suddenly, a significant person whom you greatly respect walks up. Do you change your demeanor? Likely so. So why didn’t you change your demeanor in light of the fact that the Holy Spirit of God was right there in that conversation? Here’s why. Because the physical is far more real to us than the spiritual.
Think about what’s happening right now. This is not just a book. We’re not gathering right now just to read a book. This is the voice of God speaking to us. Right now, the one, true, supernatural God is saying to you and me that there is a spiritual world all around us.
2. We are all involved in a spiritual war all the time.
Ephesians 6:12 in the Bible could not be any clearer: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
This is where we need to see the all-encompassing nature of spiritual warfare. It touches every area of our lives: our marriages, families, relationships, church, work, neighborhoods, communities, cities. There’s no part of our lives or this world over which the adversary does not want to exercise influence over us.
We need to see the conflict between the true God over this world and the false god in this world. It’s raging every single day in how we spend our time, how we use our money, what we look at on our phones, how we raise our kids, the tone of voice we use with our spouse, what we do when we think no one else is watching—in every single aspect of our lives in every moment.
There’s a god in this world set up against the God over this world, and the god in this world wants to wreck your marriage. He wants to wreck your kids. He wants to destroy your relationships, steal your purity, compromise your integrity. At all costs, he wants to prevent you and me from spreading the good news of eternal life to those who are on a road that leads to eternal death. We are all involved in spiritual war all the time.
Just think about the way the Bible talks about our lives. Hebrews 12:4 says we’re in a constant struggle against sin. We’re in a war within our souls1( Peter 2:11). We’re contending for the faith (Jude 3). We’re struggling for the gospel (Philippians 1:30). We’re fighting the fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7). This is just a sampling of how the Bible describes our everyday lives.
We sometimes think spiritual warfare happens when there’s something out of the ordinary going on, but the reality is that your involvement in spiritual war began the day you were born. You cannot ignore this war. The Bible doesn’t say, “Ignore the devil and he will flee from you.” It says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). If you try to avoid this war, if you sit back in a lazy, lackadaisical, comfortable cultural Christianity, pretending like there is no struggle to be had or war to be fought, then you will not stand. You will waver, you will falter and you will fall. Why? This is where I want to jump into 1 John 4
3. Our enemy in this spiritual war is strong.
With that background, hear the next part of 1 John. As you do, you’ll notice how John assumes what we just saw. He assumes a spiritual world and a spiritual war taking place around him and around the Christians to whom he’s writing. Listen to 1 John 4, beginning in verse one:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Did you hear that? “We know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” The Bible is talking about spirits that are not from God—the spirit of the antichrist set up against Christ, the spirit of error in the world. The Bible says the same thing in 1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” Don’t miss this. God is telling us in His Word right now that there are spirits that come from Him and there are spirits that come from the devil. Those that come from the devil are many.
Our enemy in the spiritual war is pervasive. Hear the language here in verse one: “…many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Not just a few random outliers here and there, but many. They’re everywhere. I would say that without question, the overwhelming majority of spiritual teachers in the world are false teachers. I’m not just talking about non-Christian teachers. I would include many professing Christian teachers in that category of false teachers.
Our enemy is not just pervasive; he is deceptive. He does not appear with red tights and a pitchfork in hand, announcing himself as the deceiver. That’s not how the devil tempts us. He comes in much more attractive ways than that. Think about Genesis 3:6: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”
There are all kinds of things and ideas that look good in this world that will steal you away from God. This is why the Old Testament is filled with stories of false prophets. The New Testament is filled with warnings against them. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false teachers, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Paul warns against being “tossed to and fro by the waves and by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).
Ephesians 5:6 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” Galatians 6:7 and James 1:16 warn us, “Do not be deceived…” Paul tells pastors in the church in Acts 20:29-30, “Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves…” (that is, from among you as pastors) “…will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them.” We have entire books of the Bible like 1 John, 2 John and 2 Peter that were written for this purpose. Our enemy in this spiritual war is strong. He’s pervasive and deceptive.
As a side note, one of the things that’s so frustrating about the way the enemy works is that he keeps many of us from even acknowledging the spiritual. But then, when we do acknowledge the spiritual, he tempts us to think, speak and act in all kinds of weird ways about spiritual things. C.S. Lewis said it best:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
We either can be tempted to ignore the spiritual, living functionally materialistic, naturalistic lives, or we can be tempted to go way out of whack in the way we think about the spiritual. Just to put it on the table, there are all kinds of fictions, superstitions, fantasies, nonsense, nuttiness and totally false teachings that are thriving in the church today under the guise of spiritual warfare. There is some crazy stuff out there that claims to be biblically focused on the spiritual.
David Powlison wrote a great book on counseling as it relates to spiritual warfare. He described how some people see a demon behind every bush. “Cynthia, a woman I counseled,” he wrote, “once cast demons out of her toaster when it failed to work.” Some of you are laughing because you did that this morning. Powlison continued:
More seriously, she and her husband Andrew had a remarkable and remarkably destructive way of arguing with each other. For the first five minutes they warmed up with normal person-to-person bickering. But at a certain point, when the fighting turned nasty, they shifted gears and wheeled in heavier artillery. They would bind, rebuke and attempt to cast out demons of anger, pride, and self-righteousness from each other.
In Cynthia’s words, “I saw the demon looking out of his eyes, glittering and murderous. So I said, ‘Demon of anger, I bind your power in Jesus’ name.’ Then I claimed the power of Jesus’ blood as my cover from all demonic assault coming through my husband.”
The result? Not only did Cynthia and Andrew reinforce their hostility, they trampled the name of Christ through the mud of their superstition, hostility, fear and confusion. Needless to say, the real devil—who aims to dishonor God and conform us to his evil ways—could only be pleased at the personal and interpersonal wreckage he brought about in this situation.
There’s so much more we could go into along these lines, but we don’t have time today. But I think about people praying, “Devil, we bind you in this way or that way,” and I think, where is that in the Bible? We don’t pray to the devil. We pray to God. So Paul says at the end of Ephesians 6, in light of spiritual warfare, “Pray in the Spirit of God on all occasions, all the time.”
This is just one example of many. Be aware of deception, even as we think about spiritual warfare. All of this can cause us to say in frustration, “Well, how then do we know what’s right and true and good?” That question leads to the fourth truth, which is the main point of 1 John 4:1-6.
4. Our weapons in this spiritual war are stronger.
Our enemy in this spiritual war is strong, but our weapons in this spiritual war are stronger. The whole point of 1 John 4:1-6 is to make it clear that we don’t have to be confused; we don’t have to be deceived. And ultimately we will not be defeated spiritually—if we do these two things. This is the key to 1 John 4:1-6.
Test everything you hear. First, the clear command God gives us in verse one is that we are to test the spirits. There are spirits from God and spirits from this world; we need to know which is which. So we “test.” In the original New Testament language it’s a word used to describe the purity of a metal. It means to examine something to find out its quality and origin. Specifically, where does it come from? Is it a spirit from God or not? The Bible is saying, “Do not believe every spirit, but test everything you hear.”
That includes what I’m saying right now! When I said earlier that the overwhelming majority of spiritual teachers in the world are false teachers, including many who profess to be Christian teachers, some of you thought, “Well, who are you to say that?” The answer is: I am nobody. The Bible is telling you to test and examine everything I say. God is telling you to test me and every other pastor you hear, every Christian or non-Christian book you ever read, every conference you ever attend. Test it all, because everything you’re hearing is either from God or from the devil and it’s critical for you to determine which, especially in the church.
This is why Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “Preach the word…” He goes on in verses three and four, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” This is so dangerous. We are all prone to listen to what we want to hear, to turn a deaf ear to that which we don’t. We listen to what suits our preferences, our passions, our lifestyles and our loves, in such a way that we will turn a deaf ear to the truth.
I was reading in 1 Kings this last week about King Ahab surrounding himself with lying prophets who would tell him what he wanted to hear, even when it would lead to his death. I thought, is this not what we’ve done in our church culture today? We have sought out teachers who will tell us what we want to hear, who will make us feel fine about idolatry to money, sex, comfort, safety—all the while calling it Christianity when it does not square with the Word of God, even with the teachings of Jesus Himself.
Test everything you think. I’m pleading with you, and more importantly, God is saying to you: test everything you hear and everything you think. This is where I want to pull in 2 Corinthians 10:4, one of the most quoted verses on spiritual warfare, yet also the most misinterpreted. The Bible says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Then people stop there and start talking about spiritual strongholds and how we can take them down in this way or that way. They talk all kinds of crazy talk that leaves this text behind, because the next verse says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Did you hear that? Where does spiritual warfare happen? It happens in our minds, where arguments are made, where opinions are raised against the Word of God. So how do we fight spiritual warfare? By taking every thought captive to obey Christ. This is spiritual warfare: examining our thoughts, examining everything we think. Just think practically.
I was having a conversation with somebody this last week. They were feeling beat down in their sin, saying, “I don’t think God loves me. I don’t think God will forgive me for my sin.” I stopped this person and I said, “Wait a minute. I want you to take that thought and ask the question: is that from God? Where has God said that He does not love you? Where has God said that He will not forgive your sin? That’s not from God. That’s from the devil, so don’t believe it.” That’s spiritual warfare and it’s happening all the time, in all our lives, in all kinds of ways.
Think about when Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3. Their sin started way before biting into a piece of fruit. They thought, “Maybe God isn’t right. Maybe this tree is good. Maybe I know better than God.” That’s where the battle was lost. Spiritual warfare is a testing of everything we hear and everything we think. We must ask, “Is this from God?”
This leads to the question: how do we know what’s from God and what’s not? That leads to the second word here: trust.
Trust in the truth about God’s Son. Test and trust. Specifically, in 1 John 4, we’re pointed to the exact same place 2 Corinthians 10:4 pointed us to: Jesus. Trust in the truth about God’s Son. First John 4:2-3:“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” This was the primary problem John was addressing in the first century, because people were teaching false things about Jesus. Brothers and sisters, 2,000 years later the same problem exists. In generation after generation, Satan seeks to twist and distort people’s understanding of Jesus. If we do not have a right understanding of Jesus, then we will not have a right understanding of life in the world around us—not just the Christian life, but life in general.
I’m going to make a bold statement and I’ll make it without reservation: everything in your life now and forever hinges on how you view Jesus. Every detail of your life now and for all of eternity— today, this week and forever—hinges on how you view Jesus. Your life, your marriage, your parenting, your teenage years, your school, your dating, your work, your spending, your relationships, your emotions, your thoughts, your plans, your dreams—everything in your life hinges on having a right view of Jesus. It hinges on believing that He is fully human, that He has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2)—which some in the first century were denying, saying Jesus did not have a real human body, not like us. Jesus is fully human and He is fully God. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, God in the flesh.
Now let me pause for a moment to acknowledge the multitudes of spiritual teachers who teach the exact opposite of this. In Islam, for example, Muslims completely deny that Jesus is God in the flesh. I have had countless conversations here in D.C. and around the world with Muslims who tell me they have been taught that Jesus is a prophet, but He is not God. That is false teaching about Jesus. But it’s not just Islam. It’s many who claim to be Christian, specifically Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses officially teach that Jesus was created as the archangel Michael before the world existed, that Jesus is a created man and a lesser God Who never physically rose from the dead and has already come back invisibly to the world in 1914.
Mormons officially teach that Jesus was the firstborn spirit child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly mother. As such, Jesus is a secondary God, under God the Father. He didn’t possess deity in Himself, but He progressed to deity in the spiritual. In a similar way, you and I can also become gods by keeping particular Mormon rituals. There are billions of people who believe false teaching about Jesus, many of whom are giving their lives far more zealously than we are to spread it.
I know it’s not politically correct to say these things, but how else are we to understand what God is saying in His Word? These teachings about Jesus are not from God. They’re from the spirit who is against Christ. Trust the truth about Jesus. He is fully human and fully God. He alone is able to save us from our sins. What we’ve seen over and over again in 1 John, specifically in 1 John 2:2, is that “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” So to believe in Jesus is to trust in Him alone to save us from our sins.
This is where the Bible speaks against any religious system that says we can in any way earn our way to heaven. Such teaching is not from God, including official teaching from the Catholic Church that says our works contribute to our justification before God. I hesitate to even mention this here, because we don’t have time to dive into it. I did a whole section on this in something called Secret Church earlier this year. [You can find those resources at this link.]
Any religious teaching that says Jesus’ death on the cross alone is not sufficient to cover our sins is not from God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Our works are evidence of our justification before God. They are not the cause of it.
Jesus alone is able to save us from our sins and He alone rules as Lord of our lives. This is the whole point of 1 John. Jesus doesn’t just cleanse us from sin; He changes our lives so we begin to walk as He walked. We love like He loved. We lay down our lives in love for others, as we saw last week.
So come back to our earlier point: everything in your life now and forever hinges on how you view Jesus. If you do not believe Jesus is fully human and fully God, you are banking your life on false teaching and you are on a road that leads to eternal separation from God. If you do not believe Jesus alone is able to save you from your sin, that His death alone can cover over your sin, then you will spend your life trying to earn the favor of God. You’ll never be able to do so. You’ll never have the certainty of eternal life, because you have made it depend on you in your sinfulness instead of Jesus in His righteousness.
If you do not believe that Jesus alone rules as Lord over your life, then you will date and do marriage the way you want, parent the way you want, attend school and work the way you want. You will spend your money the way you want. You will miss the wonder, joy and the love of a life completely submitted to the lordship of Jesus. Everything in your life today and forever hinges on how you view Jesus. Is He just a man to you? Is He just a distant God to you? Is He just a “get out of hell free” pass so you can know you’ll end up in heaven while you live for yourself on earth? Or is He the Lord of your life? The answer to that question changes everything about your life, now and forever. God is saying in His Word, right now, “Trust in the truth about My Son. Test everything you hear, everything you think. Make sure it aligns with the truth about Who Jesus is.”
Trust in the power of God’s Spirit. In 1 John 4:4, John says to Christians, to followers of Jesus who have put their trust in the truth about Jesus, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” The word “greater” there literally means stronger. In this spiritual war we are a part of, you and I as followers of Jesus have the very Spirit of God living inside of us. That’s where John left off in chapter 3:24: “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
You might wonder, “How do I know if I have the Spirit of God in me?” The answer is what we just talked about. Do you believe Jesus is fully God and fully man, the only Savior from your sin and the Lord of your life? If you do, that belief did not come from the world. That came from God, from His Spirit at work in you. His Spirit is the One Who opened your eyes to that reality. So in this spiritual war, you can trust in the power of God’s Spirit in you right now. You are not powerless. You have the power of the Spirit of God in you.
Trust in the Word God has spoken. Trust in the truth about God’s Son. Trust in the power of God’s Spirit. Then trust in the Word God has spoken. In the last two verses here, John compares these false teachers with the true teachers—those who are speaking the Word of God. Most biblical scholars believe that when John writes “we” at the beginning of verse six, he’s referring to himself and other apostolic eye witnesses to Jesus who were given by God to give us His Word.
How do we test the spirits? Everything we hear, everything we think—how do we test and trust in the truth of Jesus and the power of God’s Spirit in us? By the Word He’s spoken to us. We have before us the 66 books which make up the Bible, the Word of God. I did a whole six hours of teaching one night in Secret Church on how we know the Bible is the Word of God (visit this link). We test everything by this Book—everything. If I am not saying what is in this Book, then do not believe what I am saying. And if I am saying what’s in this Book, don’t believe it because I said it—believe it because it’s in this Book. Test everything you hear, everything you think, by this Book. Trust in this Book.
This is another area we could spend a ton of time on, and maybe we will one day, because there’s a lot of talk today about desiring additional words from God that go beyond what God has said in His Word. People are saying, “I have a word from God for you,” or, “A word from God for this situation, that situation,” or people are saying, “I just want a word from God for this or that.” There are entire movements in the church today built on how you can hear words from God like this, how you can speak words from God like this to others. While there might be some good there, this Word is sufficient.
We want to apply God’s Word to our lives and see how it relates to specific situations to encourage others. God helps us in all kinds of ways along these lines. We do not need a movement to try to figure out more words from God, as if He has not given us enough. We need to trust and obey the words we already have. We do not put our trust in supposed words from God that others might have. We put all our trust in the Word of God that we have.
In Ephesians 6, what does Paul say is our weapon in spiritual warfare? Not the fallible impressions or sense of man, but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Let us not forget that cults and false teachings all come from people who claim to have additional words from God. Our enemy in this spiritual war is great, pervasive and deceptive, but our weapons are greater.
5. The outcome of this spiritual war is sure.
So test everything, with trust in the truth about Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Word God has spoken, knowing ultimately that the outcome of this spiritual war is sure. Here’s the beauty, based on all we’ve seen, when we wage spiritual war in our lives. Christian, please hear this: we are not ultimately trying to win, because Jesus has already won.
If you’re visiting with us today, or maybe exploring Christianity, here’s the big picture we celebrate every single week we gather together. It’s why we come together. There is one true, supernatural God Who created all of us, but each one of us have turned aside from God to our own ways instead of His ways. We have all sinned against God and, as a result, we are separated from Him. The penalty for our sin against Him is death—physical death and eternal spiritual death—because He is a good, just and holy God.
Yet God has not left us alone in our sinfulness. He has come to us in the Person of Jesus—God in the flesh—Who has done what no one else has ever done or could ever do. He has lived a life we could not live, a life of perfect obedience to God. He never once gave in to the temptation to sin—not once. Then, although He had no sin for which to die, He chose to die. When He went to the cross, He chose to pay the price of sin that we all deserve.
He died for us, in our place, as our Substitute. What was happening physically on the cross represented a much deeper spiritual reality. Jesus was taking the judgment you and I are due upon Himself. He did that in love for us. Then the good news keeps getting better, because He didn’t stay dead for long. Three days later He rose from the grave, having defeated sin and death.
So now eternal life is available to anyone, including you today—anyone, anywhere in the world, who decides to put their faith in Jesus. Ask God to forgive you of your sin solely through trusting in what Jesus has done for you as Savior and Lord of your life. If you put your faith in Jesus, He will forgive you of all your sin and restore you to a relationship with Him forever.
This is the big picture story. When you believe this story, you will realize, “Wait a second. Spiritual warfare? The enemy has already been defeated and will be destroyed.” This means that when you put your faith in Jesus and become a Christian, you know that we are not fighting for victory. Like the story of Elisha in 2 Kings, God is saying to you today, “Open your eyes to the reality around you. Look around you and look within you. Greater is He Who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
You’re in a spiritual war every day—in your home, your workplace, your every word, your every desire, your every thought. In this war, Christian, trust in the truth about Jesus. Trust in the power of God’s Spirit. Trust in the Word God has spoken to you and know that this week, in all of your battles with temptation, in all of your struggles with trials, you’re not fighting for victory. You are fighting from victory—and there’s a big difference, because we know the end of this war is already set. Listen to Revelation 12:9-11:
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
One day Jesus is coming back and He’s going to hurl the adversary and all his deceptions and accusations against us into an abyss, and we are going to live with the one true supernatural God, free from sin and suffering and death for all eternity. Live with that confidence. It’s war time now, but peace time is coming.
Jesus, we praise You as the King Who has conquered sin and death and Who has made eternal life possible for us now and forever. Jesus, we believe this about You. God, I pray that even now, in these moments, there might be some—maybe many—who have not believed in You before. God, I pray that Your Spirit would open their eyes to the truth and the love of Jesus, that they would put their trust in You even now. I pray that all who have put their trust in You would know that greater is He Who is in them than he who is in the world.
Peace time is coming, so God help us fight spiritual battles with faith from this day until then. I pray that we would live out of the overflow of the victory You have given us. In the midst of temptation, in the midst of trials, I pray that You would give us trust in You and that You would guard us from deception and discouragement. Help us to trust in Your Son and Your Spirit and the Word You’ve spoken. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
How can we apply this passage to our lives?
Why are we so quick to forget that we are constantly in a spiritual war?
How have we underestimated the enemy in this war?
According to the sermon, what weapons do we have to fight this war?
How does everything in your life now and forever hinge on how you view Jesus?
What confidence should the Christian draw from the promise that the outcome of this war is secure? What does it meant to fight from victory?
There is a spiritual world all around us.
2 Kings 6:8 – 10
“Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, ‘At such and such a place shall be my camp.’ But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, ‘Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.’ And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.”
2 Kings 6:11 – 12
“And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, ‘Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?’ And one of his servants said, ‘None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.’”
2 Kings 6:13 – 14
“And he said, ‘Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.’ It was told him, ‘Behold, he is in Dothan.’ So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.”
2 Kings 6:15
“When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’”
2 Kings 6:16
“He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’”
2 Kings 6:17
“Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
2 Kings 6:18 – 19
“And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please strike this people with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, ‘This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.’ And he led them to Samaria.”
We are all involved in a spiritual war all the time.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Our enemy in this spiritual war is strong.
1 John 4:1 – 6
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
1 Timothy 4:1
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons . . .”
He is pervasive. He is deceptive.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
“. . . tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
“Let no one deceive you with empty words . . .”
Galatians 6:7 & James 1:16
“Do not be deceived . . .”
Acts 20:29 – 30
“. . . fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Our weapons in this spiritual war are stronger.
Everything you hear.
2 Timothy 4:3 – 4
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Everything you think.
2 Corinthians 10:4
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
2 Corinthians 10:5
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . .”
In the truth about God’s Son.
1 John 4:2 – 3
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”
He is fully human. He is fully God.
He alone is able to save us from our sins.
1 John 2:2
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Ephesians 2:8 – 9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
He alone rules as Lord of our lives. In the power of God’s Spirit.
1 John 4:4
“. . . you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
1 John 3:24
“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
In the Word God has spoken.
The outcome of this spiritual war is sure. We are not fighting for victory.
We are fighting from victory.
Revelation 12:9 – 11
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.