In the often invisible, yet real warfare between the forces of good and evil, will this decision likely serve the forces of good or the forces of evil?

Beneath everything else recorded in biblical history is the great warfare between Satan, God’s rebellious creature, and God himself. Satan is malevolent, attempting to destroy all true pleasure, health, happiness, and holiness. God is benevolent, ultimately establishing in his created order the richest pleasure, health, happiness, and holiness. As early as the third chapter of Genesis, even as God cursed the created order because of Adam’s sin, he also promised that there would be a great war in which God’s purposes would triumph:

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:14–15. The word translated “bruise” here is rare, but in Job 9:17 it is translated as “crush,” which may be more indicative of a serious wound than “bruise.”)

Some may be uncomfortable with it, but one of the most common titles for God in the Bible, used 259 times, is “Lord Sabaoth,” meaning the Lord of Hosts or the Lord of Armies. The title refers to God as he wages terrifying (and ultimately triumphant) war against his enemies and the enemies of his people. As a benevolent sovereign, he will not permit those who revolt against his reign to destroy the inhabitants of his realm, and he therefore wages warfare against the revolutionaries. While much of God’s activity as Divine Warrior occurs in the context of geopolitical Israel, this is nothing less than a type of his eschatological warfare, anticipated in Genesis 3 and consummated in the realities recorded in the book of Revelation.

The Biblical Basis for the Warfare Model

The warfare model arises essentially from three streams of Scripture. First, the Old Testament’s typological expectations of the coming of Christ often include military kings, who lead the people of God in triumph over their enemies. Second, there are those various “apocalyptic” passages in the Bible that describe the entire drama of human existence as a great war between good and evil, between light and darkness.[1] Third, there are those many passages that employ military figures of speech to describe Christian ministry, life, and duty:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:11–13)

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

Apocalyptic Warfare in the Bible

Scripture often employs military images when describing the future, final consummation of history. In these passages, God is envisioned as a great warrior, ultimately triumphing over the enemies who have despoiled his land, in order to restore order, justice, health, and peace (see Rev. 19:11–21). There is even a vision of warfare in heaven, as Michael and his angels make war against the dragon and his angels (see Rev. 12:7). The beast wages war against the Lamb of God (see Rev. 17). And the exalted Christ himself threatens to war against those within the churches who teach the doctrines of the Nicolaitans (see Rev. 2). In these visions, we perceive the utter incompatibility between righteousness and wickedness, between submission to God and resistance to his reign.

Military Descriptions of the Christian Ministry and the Christian Life

In light of these realities, it is not surprising that the New Testament often describes the Christian ministry and the Christian life using military language. Those who follow Christ are engaged in the great, historic warfare between life and death, health and illness, good and evil, justice and injustice. The Christian ministry is described in military terms; many passages describe the particular nature of Christian warfare and use martial language to depict the life of believers.

For example, in Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3–4, and Philemon 1:2, Paul refers to ministers as soldiers. In 1 Timothy 1:18, he uses military language to describe Timothy’s work:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophesies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.

Certain texts describe the nature of this warfare. In Jesus’s day, Hades was considered a place of torment in which souls were imprisoned. When Jesus told Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell [Hades] shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), he was describing the church as a militant institution that breaks down the prison walls of Hades and releases its captives. Additional texts elaborate on this ecclesial conquest:

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. (2 Cor. 6:3–7)

Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3–6)

Not surprisingly, the New Testament often describes the life of faith in military terms, depicting believers as soldiers who fight on one side of a great war.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments [or “weapons”] for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Rom. 6:13)

The word translated “instrument” (hopla) ordinarily refers to military armament of some sort. Indeed, in contemporary English, we refer to a person who is afraid of guns as a hoplaphobe. The term means “weapon” or “armor” in texts such as John 18:3, Romans 13:12, and 2 Corinthians 10:4.

In Galatians 5:17, Paul writes, “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” The word translated “are opposed to” in this verse is commonly employed in martial contexts, to refer to one’s “opponents” in warfare. Indeed, the devil himself is referred to by this term in 1 Timothy 5:14: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” So the term is used in 2 Samuel 8:10: “Toi sent his son Joram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him, for Hadadezer had often been at war with Toi.”

Other passages — such as Ephesians 6:10–17 (the armor of God), 1 Timothy 6:12, James 4:1–2, and 1 Peter 2:11 — envision the Christian life as one of perpetual warfare, in which the forces of evil assault and oppose the forces of good, and vice versa. To believe in Christ requires us to enlist in his cause, to wage war against sin, and to resist its attacks on ourselves, the church, and human society. Not surprisingly, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer published by the Episcopal Church, following many similar vows in earlier liturgies, includes this question as part of its baptismal rite: “Dost thou, therefore, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?” Note the militant nature of this baptismal vow, some form of which can be found in Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Cyril of Jerusalem. Such vows imply that the baptizand is leaving the life of a citizen and beginning the life of a warrior.

Further, these passages often refer to the cosmic warfare as “resistance” on the one side or the other. Satan and his adversaries (including most of the structures of fallen human societies) “resist” the purposes and ways of God, and God’s soldiers resist the resistance. To be a follower of Christ, one must be willing to spot resistance to God’s rule and to resist such resistance. The entire force of well- known texts such as Romans 12:2 suggests this resistance: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” “This world” is hostile to God’s created purposes, and its various cultural expressions always manifest the resistance in their own peculiar ways. We must not be conformed to such resistance.

How the Warfare Model Functions

Before I discuss the duties of the Christian warrior, I must make an important qualification. The Christian faith and the Christian life cannot be reduced to a technique. Jacques Ellul and David F. Wells”[2] have made this case cogently. We need the grace of the Holy Spirit either to enter this warfare or to make any headway therein, and even as we consider those practices, disciplines, and duties by which soldiers wage holy warfare, we must do so with a due recognition that there can be no progress whatsoever apart from the blessings of the Ascended Christ, chief of which is his gift of the Holy Spirit. Only the last Adam, the Seed of the woman, can emerge victoriously over the seed of the Serpent, and all smaller sub- victories are part of his great work, both in his humiliated state and in his exalted state. So we undertake this warfare as a minister undertakes preaching: with complete dependence on the work of Christ and his Spirit.


One of the most common, universal duties in any military is that of the watch. Since surprise is one of the great tactical assets of every army, watchfulness is, and always has been, an essential element of warfare. In ancient times, the watch was quite literally visual; in more recent times, it also includes radar, sonar, satellite photography, and electronic eavesdropping. But the mission has remained the same: don’t let the enemy sneak up on you and catch you unprepared. Many biblical texts warn us to adopt the same strategy. Peter urged, “Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Obedience to Orders

Similarly, obedience is a universal aspect of military life, whether ancient or modern. There may be a place for developing a philosophy or theology of warfare and for debating such things as just war theory, but the battlefield is not that place. Once an engagement has begun, everyone must respect the chain of command, and all inferiors must obey the commands of their superiors.

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matt. 8:8–10)

In some sense, then, we might suggest that the warfare model embraces the law model, because the obedience that is such a prominent feature of the law model is also a necessary component of the warfare model.

Equipment and Preparation

Students of the Second World War are quick to point out that American industrial might was critical to the Allied victory. The Americans surprised the Japanese by the speed with which they rebuilt the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor, and Hitler could not compete against the ships, airplanes, tanks, and landing craft that the United States produced with great efficiency. The cost of equipping soldiers has increased considerably in the last half century or so: in WWII, it was $170 per soldier; in the Vietnam War, $1,112; and in more recent operations, it is $17,472, primarily because of the rising cost of body armor, communications, and sighting equipment (day and night) for weaponry.”[3] An ill- equipped army cannot defeat a well- equipped one — many battles are won before the first round is fired, because of the successful equipping and preparation that precede the battle itself.

Similarly, in the Scriptures, believers are instructed to prepare and equip themselves for war by putting on the entire armor of God (Eph. 6) and by arming themselves with the right kind of weapons (2 Cor. 10:3–6).

Strategy — Offensive and Defensive

In any military engagement, the highest- ranking officers deliberate and develop strategies, and these strategies are both offensive and defensive. Offensively, the officers determine where and by what means they might achieve the greatest victories; defensively, they determine where their greatest weaknesses lie and how to defend these areas against attacks. Where would a successful offensive procure a great victory? Where would a defeat prove a real setback? Where is the enemy weak? Where am I weak?

Believers must think strategically as well. We must develop long-range offensive strategies — plans to make progress and take ground that is not currently ours. We must also consider defensive strategies, honestly assessing our own personal, ecclesiastical, and cultural weaknesses that the Enemy might exploit, and striving to prevent such victories.

Knowledge of the Enemy

The apostle Paul told the Corinthians,

What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Cor. 2:10–11)

Sadly, in our present day, we are almost entirely “ignorant of his designs.” If I were to give a pop quiz and say, “Name five of Satan’s designs,” how many would pass? How often do we familiarize ourselves, through study and conversation, with Satan’s designs? Of course, we know that he tries to break our communion with God; we know that he tempts us to sin. But do we know how he goes about breaking that communion or how he goes about tempting us to sin? If we don’t, then we are ignorant of his designs, at our own peril.

As an example, consider Satan’s designs in our contemporary high-tech culture. What does Satan desire but to disrupt our communion with God? And how might our culture and its tools aid him in his effort? Well, in a “connected” culture — where social media, texting, video calling, voicemail, and email are ubiquitous — doesn’t such increased communication with humans naturally result in decreased communion with God? It isn’t easy today to find a place where one can be alone and undisturbed; our technologies, unless we deliberately turn them off, prevent us from having uninterrupted seasons of prayer and meditation. We must not be ignorant of the ways in which Satan would use these tools, and we must intentionally use them in a manner that enhances our true communion with God and with others.

Special Challenges to the Warfare Model

Satan’s Weapons: Deceit and Desire

Scripturally, we find again and again that the primary weapons in Satan’s arsenal are deceit and desire (especially strong desire, or passion). When Satan deceives our understanding, we then behave in a manner consistent with that deception. He makes the world look a certain way to us, and we then behave in accordance with that perception of the world. Of course, the perception is wrong, and the behaviors that follow are destructive. Jesus said about him: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Satan deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that God’s purposes for them were malicious and would prove harmful. He deceived them into thinking that it was better and wiser to follow him (the Serpent) than God. Once they were so deceived, they behaved accordingly. This remains the preeminent deception Satan employs today. He always attempts to deceive us into thinking that God is malevolent, and that following God will ruin our lives, when nothing could be further from the truth. Following Satan (and his close cousin, self) debases us, demeans us, dehumanizes us; it cuts us off from that great pleasure of knowing and serving God and neighbor — a pleasure that ennobles us and humanizes us — and it substitutes fleeting, debasing pleasures for lasting, ennobling pleasures.

Satan deceives us into thinking that life is better if we seek our own will; the truth is that life is better — both for us and for those around us — if we deny our will and seek God’s. Satan deceives us into thinking that God doesn’t care for us, which leads us to worry and despair; the truth is that God cares for us tenderly, specifically, benevolently, wisely, and eternally. Satan deceives us into thinking that our greatest comforts come from God’s creation; the truth is that our greatest comfort comes from God himself.

Satan deceives us into thinking that receiving is better than giving; the truth is that giving is more blessed than receiving (see Acts 20:35). Satan deceives us into thinking that a “good” life avoids and evades trials, hardships, and suffering; the truth is that Christ called us to taking up our cross daily (see Luke 9:23). His apostle taught us that we are strong when we are weak (see 2 Cor. 12:9), and our communion with the “man of sorrows” (see Isa. 53:3) is rarely more profound than when our afflictions cause us to abandon all confidence in our own resources.

Indeed, according to the Scriptures, we are so deceived that we even confuse death and life. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov. 14:12). Satan attempts to make a way appear right and pleasant, when he knows it will destroy us. Thomas Brooks referred to this as Satan’s great device, “to present the bait and hide the hook.””[4]

Perhaps the greatest instrument of deception is cultural habit. Cultural anthropologists assure us that every culture establishes habits by which it shames some values or behaviors and honors others. Sociologists of knowledge similarly tell us that every culture, through its habits, creates “plausibility structures” by which some ideas and values appear more plausible and others less so. Since all cultures are now infected by human rebellion, all cultural activity has something of the Tower of Babel in it: an attempt to secure blessedness without God’s re- inviting us to the garden from which we were banished.

Each of us is thus reared in a culture that regards as “normal” values and behaviors that might not at all accord with God’s revealed norms. And yet, the frequency with which we encounter cultural expressions may lull us into thinking that these expressions are “normal,” when they are merely common in our culture. Some cultures revere those who are older, while our culture prizes youth — which accords more with the fifth commandment or with Solomon’s proverbs? Some cultures are ascetic or communal, resisting the acquisition of material goods, while ours is capitalist and consumerist, encouraging the acquisition of material goods — which accords more with the teaching of Jesus? Some cultures respect their received traditions, eagerly studying the past, while ours values novelty, routinely assuming that “newer is better” — which is more consistent with the teaching of Scripture, which urges even new covenant saints, after the resurrection of Christ, to consider the faith of various old covenant saints (see Heb. 11)?

Diversion a special form of deception. Students of military history and tactics note that diversion is one of the most ancient military stratagems, a stratagem designed to turn the enemy’s resources in a direction that will be less dangerous for the attacking force. Before Chancellorsville, for instance, Joe Hooker, knowing that Confederate spies had broken his flag-signal codes, sent a bogus signal that indicated a plan to attack the Shenandoah Valley, hoping thereby to dilute Robert E. Lee’s forces by sending them westward. Similarly, before the D-Day invasion in June 1944, the Allied forces set up a false military base in the north of England, complete with plywood “tanks” and other matériel, in order to divert Hitler’s gaze from Normandy. Those who wage war reckon that the next best thing to destroying an enemy’s capacity to fight is diverting his military power to a place where it will be considerably less threatening.

Since the Enemy of all that is good does not always succeed at persuading us that good is evil and evil is good, he often blunts the force of God’s kingdom by diverting its energies and resources. Indeed, he employed this tactic when he attempted to destroy Christ, the last Adam, in the temptation narrative of Matthew 4. Note, when Christ began to reestablish the reign of God through his public ministry, how Satan worked: by diversion. Satan could not take away Christ’s power to work miracles, so he attempted to divert that power into such meaningless displays as turning stones to bread or leaping from the temple. Similarly, he offered the various kingdoms of the world, and their wealth, in exchange for Christ’s worship. He was desperate to divert and deflect the powers of God’s kingdom that were emerging in the person and work of Christ.

This attempt at diversion did not end with the incarnation of Christ. The church’s temptation, historically, has resembled Christ’s own temptation: to divert her energies from her principal tasks to those that are less significant. Quite frequently, the Enemy diverts the church’s attention to some social reform movement, lest she devote her energies and resources to her distinctive concern for the spiritual and eternal wellbeing of her flock. He routinely diverts the church’s intellectual energy from the vigorous study and refutation of particular cultural errors to quibbling and squabbling over theological issues that have little or no consequence, regardless of how they are resolved.”[5] Often, he even succeeds in creating the same litigious atmosphere inside the church as exists outside it, which spends an enormous amount of time and energy adjudicating matters that are of comparatively little consequence. Obviously, he would rather have the church expend her resources fighting herself than fighting him, and the degree to which he has succeeded in thus diverting our energies would be admirable were it not so wicked.

This Diverter appears to take special delight in persuading ministers to use their pulpits to pursue their own peculiar hobby-horses (often faddish and culture-specific) rather than to declare the unchanging redemptive counsel of God. And few things please him more than cultivating in churchgoers a greater interest in “special” music, dramas, and entertainment than in the divinely instituted means of grace: prayer, the Word, and the sacraments. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could recognize that the means of grace are already “special”?

If I were the devil (no comments, please), and if I knew that “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21), I would do everything in my power to divert both the minister’s and the congregation’s attention and energy in any other direction to any other thing. I would suggest to ministers that what is “really” important is visitation, counseling, playing tennis with the youth, or administration; and I would suggest to worship committees that what is “really” important is giving people what they desire, amusing and entertaining them by abbreviated and simplistic preaching, or by diverting their senses to anything else but the preaching (e.g., the architecture, the interior design, the pipe organ, the choir, the choir robes, the praise band, the chorus, the dramatists, the jumbotron, and so on). If I were the devil, the very last thing I would want would be ministers like the apostles, who “devoted” themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word (see Acts 6:4). But then, I’m not the devil, so perhaps he is not doing such things to divert the church today.

Desires. In addition to deceit, Satan employs corrupt desires to attack us. In our fallen condition, having served the creature rather than the Creator, we have inverted the universe, prizing what God made more than the God who gave it. We have upside- down values, and upside-down desires. “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17).

Further, these upside- down desires are often quite forceful (the Puritans frequently called them “violent”), and when they are unusually forceful, they are called “passions.” These strong desires overwhelm our reason, causing us to behave stupidly.”[6] Some passions are so strong that, once ignited, they almost sweep us away. The unbelieving world thinks of such passions as “irresistible” — and indeed, apart from God’s grace, they genuinely are irresistible.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1–2)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

Our Weapons: Faith and Repentance

The weapons of the Christian church are manifold and, we trust, growing. One can only hope and pray that “research and development” will never end, as long as the church is militant. But among the church’s foremost weapons are faith and repentance — these are the antidotes, respectively, to deception and desire. Faith assents to (and rests in) what God reveals, and the more our minds are influenced by his revelation, the less easy it is for the Evil One to deceive us. The ignorant and the uncertain are much easier to deceive than the thoughtful, the learned, and the well- grounded. Those whose faith is fortified by many hours of study, reflection, meditation, instruction, and conversation are more resistant to deception than those whose faith is shaped by sloganized or emotional Christianity. Similarly, repentance is perhaps the greatest antidote to sinful desire — it is the deliberate, intentional determination to exercise self-control and self- denial regarding some specific thought, attitude, or behavior. Indeed, it is the very repudiation of such desire.

When one considers how effectively these two weapons oppose Satan’s primary tactics, it is not surprising to notice how frequently the two are spoken of together in the New Testament.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15)

How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. (Heb. 6:1)

The two great weapons in the believer’s arsenal are faith and repentance. Each of these is well- suited to counterattack deceit and desire. The “solution” to Satan’s deceptions is to believe what God has revealed. The “solution” to evil desires is to repent of them (the sooner, the better). Faith and repentance, then, are like a soldier’s two legs: With one we stride toward God, and with the other we stride away from sin.

Faith is the positive side of the coin, if you will. On the opposite side is repentance. Faith treasures what is right and true and trusts in what God has said, relying entirely on his Word. True faith is not mere assent, but a heartfelt trust in God’s revelation, because the faithful one reveres God as loving and wise. True repentance is not mere resolve but a resolve based on the perception of sin’s blackness and deadliness. To repent requires a genuine, soul-felt acknowledgment of how vile and wicked sin is.

Application of the Warfare Model

The warfare model reminds us that the stakes of our decision-making are high. In a sense, every decision makes the next battle easier or harder; every decision either strengthens or weakens us amid life’s greater battle. As we evaluate our past decisions, and as we consider making present and future ones, the warfare model demands a broader field of vision — it suggests that we look beyond the immediate consequences of our decisions to the longer-range consequences and tendencies to which they may lead. Especially, perhaps, it challenges us to think strategically: to think of all of life as having both an “offensive” and a “defensive” component. Offensively, we desire to take new ground, not previously occupied; defensively, we desire to protect hard- fought ground from the Evil One.

To illustrate this, imagine two individuals, Mary and Bill. Mary participates in a wide range of church and community activities and is a devoted (and busy!) wife and mother. Bill is single, contemplative, somewhat reclusive. Mary’s faith is fervent and sincere, but her schedule is so full that there is little time in her life for prayer, thoughtful study, or meditation. Bill is similarly sincere, but his personality has left him comparatively withdrawn, if not aloof, from others.

Both Mary and Bill attend First Lutheran Church, and the consistory has announced a new program for distributing goods to those in the congregation who are needy. It asks if anyone in the church is willing to chair this project, and both Mary and Bill think about it. What should they do? Well, Mary is busy enough (probably too busy), and at this point in her life, it would be poor strategy to assume yet another responsibility. Bill, however, needs precisely to actively serve his neighbor, and the fact that he has no family responsibilities means that he has more than enough time to do this. Further, such service would help him to develop in areas where he is comparatively underdeveloped — that is, to take new ground from the Enemy.

Thus, when they face this decision strategically, two different individuals might legitimately give two different answers to the same question (Mary declines; Bill accepts). While the Scriptures do not say to all people, “Thou shalt never serve as chairman of any form of church ministry,” and while they do not say to all people, “Thou shalt always serve as chairman of every church ministry,” the warfare model brings light to the matter that other models do not. For Mary, this is not a strategic time to increase her activity; if anything, she needs more time for the contemplative aspects of the Christian life. But for Bill, this is a strategic time for him to actively serve others and to thereby emulate our serving Lord.

Similarly, the decision regarding which local church to attend is fraught with strategic considerations and consequences. When a family elects to attend and support one local church (and therefore not to attend and support the other local options), this has profound consequences for both the family and the local churches. Ideally, our affiliation with a local church would be highly beneficial both to us and to the church — an affiliation through which we can both bless and be blessed, both serve and be served. Of course, we will rarely achieve such a perfect blend. At some moments in our pilgrimage, we may need to be served more than to serve, and vice versa. In some circumstances, the decision to attend a smaller, struggling church or church plant will demand more of us, but will do more good, strategically, for the kingdom of God than would attending a larger, better- established church. In other circumstances, the opposite could true. Thinking strategically, then, about self, family, and the local and universal kingdom of God might lead two different families to make two different decisions, both of which might be “right.”

Such examples also demonstrate how the five models inform one another. In some sense, the strategic question of which ministry to perform or which local church to attend is also a matter of wisdom, and it is certainly a matter that effects communion with God. While any legitimate form of service in any legitimate expression of the visible church is lawful and is an occasion to imitate God, not every decision is equally wise, not every decision has the same consequences for our communion with God and with other saints, and, surely, not every decision has the same consequences for the warfare between the seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the woman.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Name five of Satan’s designs.
  2. How does the understanding of all of life as warfare challenge or convict you in your decision-making?
  3. How might the warfare model encourage us to boldly apply other models, such as the law model, at times when doing so might be uncomfortable in our secular culture?
  4. How might the communion model help you to resist the enemy’s weapons of deceit and desire?
  5. In what way does the warfare model have implications for every decision we make?

Case Study

Return to your case study from the opening chapter and answer the following questions with it in mind.

  1. What is helpful about viewing the situation through a warfare lens?
  2. What aspects of the situation, if any, does the warfare model not seem to address?
  3. Based on the warfare model, what decision(s) would you advise a person in this situation to make? Why?
  4. Are you satisfied with how the warfare model addresses this situation? Why or why not?

T. David Gordon is the author of Choose Better, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, and Why Johnny Can’t Preach.

T. David Gordon was professor of religion and Greek at Grove City College for more than twenty years. Previously, he was an associate professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and, for nearly a decade, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashua, New Hampshire. He is the author of several books and numerous theological articles.

  1. For example, “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
  2. See Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, trans. John Wilkinson (New York: Knopf, 1964); and David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).
  3. Associated Press, Thursday, October 4, 2007.
  4. Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices (1652; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1984), 29.
  5. See T. David Gordon, “Distractions from Orthodoxy,” Modern Reformation 17, no. 5 (September/October 2008), 21–25.
  6. Thus, they are studied by behavioral economists, such as Daniel Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. See his Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions(New York: HarperCollins, 2008), especially chapter 5, “The Influence of Arousal,” 89–105. See also Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” The Atlantic 302, no. 1 (July/August, 2008), 56–63; Mark Bauerlein, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future (Tarcher Press, 2008); Ori and Rom Brafman. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior (New York: Doubleday, 2008); and Farhad Manjoo, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post- Fact Society (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 2008). I fully expect a new area of academic studies to emerge: “Stupid Studies.” In fact, behavioral economics is very close to being such a discipline.