Question: "Do we need to be aware of the spiritual battle that is taking place around us?"
Answer: It is crucial that every Christian understands that he/she is in a spiritual battle. There is no way to get out of it. Awareness of the spiritual battle around us is very important. Not only awareness, but vigilance, preparedness, courage, and the right weaponry are crucial elements of engaging in spiritual warfare.
In the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” It is clear that “our warfare” as Christians is spiritual. We are not fighting a physical battle, nor a human battle. It is on a spiritual level—its enemies, its prerogatives, its fortresses, and its weapons are all spiritual. If we attempt to fight the spiritual with human weapons, we will fail and the enemy will be victorious.
It is important to note that Paul is not speaking about battling demons here. When Jesus and the apostles cast demons out, it was, along with the other signs and wonders they exhibited, primarily to prove the authority of what they said. It was important at that time for God to give the apostles a powerful “proof” that they were indeed from God and were His spokesmen. The fidelity of Scripture depends on the authority of the apostles, so God gave the apostles His power to authenticate their teachings. The point all along was to show that the ultimate authority—and our ultimate spiritual weapon—is Scripture. So, although there are times when demons possess and attack human beings today, and there are biblical instances of Jesus and the apostles casting demons out, the kind of spiritual battle that every Christian engages in is primarily a battle of the mind.
There are fortresses all around us in this world, made of the “speculations” and “lofty things” that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians. The word speculations is, in the Greek, logismos. It means “ideas, concepts, reasonings, philosophies.” People of the world build up these logismos to protect themselves against the truth of God. Sadly, these fortresses often become prisons and eventually tombs. Our calling as Christians is to break down these fortresses and rescue the inhabitants. It is dangerous and difficult work, but we have a divine arsenal always at our disposal. Unfortunately, one of the enemy’s best tricks is getting us to fight with human weapons rather than divine.
Marketing techniques, counter-philosophies, persuasive words of human wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:4), rationalism, organization, skill, entertainment, mystique, better lighting, better music—these are all human weapons. None of these things will win the spiritual war. They are ineffective for bringing about true conversion, and they may even produce false conversions. The only thing that is effective—the only offensive weapon we possess—is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). This sword gives us many freedoms as soldiers in this spiritual battle. We have freedom from fear, knowing that God is fighting for us (Joshua 1:7–9) and that He will not forsake us. We have freedom from guilt, knowing that we are not responsible for the souls of those who reject God’s message after we have proclaimed it to them (Mark 6:11). We have freedom from despair, knowing that if we are persecuted and hated, He was persecuted and hated first (John 15:18) and that our battle wounds will be richly and lovingly tended to in heaven (Matthew 5:10).
All of these freedoms come from using the powerful weapon of God—His Word. If we use human weaponry to fight against the enemy’s fortresses, we will sustain failures and disappointment, and even our victories will be unsure. Conversely, the victories of God are full of hope. “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 6:22-24). The hearts of those who hear and accept the true, full message of the gospel as given by the apostles are “sprinkled clean” and “washed with pure water.” What is this water? It is the Word of God that strengthens us as we fight (Ephesians 5:26; John 7:38).