The first thing to do when we believe we may be under a spiritual attack is to determine, as best we can, whether what we are experiencing is truly a spiritual attack from demonic forces or simply the effects of living in a sin-cursed world. Some people blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons they believe need to be cast out. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and to wage war against the evil one (Ephesians 6:10-18). But whether we are truly under spiritual attack from demonic forces or just battling the evil in ourselves and that which inhabits the world, the battle plan is the same.
The key to the battle plan is found in Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul begins by saying that we must be strong in the Lord and in His power, not in our own power which is no match for the devil and his forces. Paul then exhorts us to put on the armor of God, which is the only way to take a stand against spiritual attacks. In our own strength and power, we have no chance of defeating the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v. 12). Only the “full armor of God” will equip us to withstand spiritual attack. We can only be strong in the Lord’s power; it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is against spiritual forces of evil in the world.
Ephesians 6:13-18 gives a description of the spiritual armor God gives us, and the good news is that these things are readily available to all who belong to Christ. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth, buckle on the breastplate of righteousness, wear on our feet the gospel of peace, hold up the shield of faith, wear the helmet of salvation, and wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God—the only offensive weapon in the whole armory. The rest are defensive. What do these pieces of spiritual armor represent in spiritual warfare? We are to speak the truth against Satan’s lies. We are to rest in the fact that we are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance we receive. We are not to waver in our faith, no matter how fiercely we are attacked. Our ultimate defense is the assurance we have of our salvation, an assurance that no spiritual force can take away. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God, not our own opinions and feelings. Finally, we are to follow Jesus’ example in recognizing that some spiritual victories are only possible through prayer.
Jesus is our ultimate example when it comes to warding off spiritual attacks. Observe how Jesus handled direct attacks from Satan when He was tempted by him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Each temptation was answered the same way—with the words “It is written” and a quote from the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Word of the living God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. If Jesus Himself used the Word to counter the devil, do we dare to use anything less?
The ultimate example of how not to engage in spiritual warfare is the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, who went around driving out evil spirits by trying to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. One day the evil spirit answered them, “‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (Acts 19:13-16). The seven sons of Sceva were using Jesus’ name, but because they did not have a relationship with Jesus, their words were void of any power or authority. They were not relying on Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and they were not employing the Word of God in their spiritual warfare. As a result, they received a humiliating beating. May we learn from their bad example and conduct spiritual warfare as the Bible instructs.