Dwight Fletcher | Overcoming our Spiritual Enemies
Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at the book of 1 Corinthians. From this book, we recognise that the church in Corinth was in the middle of a spiritual battle. They were having problems with division, immorality, pagan worship, and doctrinal error, among other things. These issues ran deep and threatened to destroy the church and the lives of the people. If allowed to continue, these problems would serve to discredit the Christians of the church, while bringing disillusionment to the non-Christians so that they would have no desire to become Christians. Some persons would say that we are experiencing the very same issues in the church today.
The source of these problems came from the three spiritual enemies of our Christian faith the WORLD, the FLESH, and the DEVIL. The Apostle Paul had to write the Corinthians and warn them about the enemies.
The world, the society around the Corinthian church, had started to influence the standards, norms, and values within the Church. So, instead of the Church impacting and changing the external culture of the day, the culture was changing the church. I believe that much of the modern church is struggling with this same problem.
This concerned the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians: 'Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly.'1 Corinthians 3:1. The first enemy had a foothold in the church.
Worldliness in the church and in our lives individually can easily occur because it appeals to our flesh, the second of our spiritual enemies. In the church at Corinth, this was revealed in their sexual impurity, their lusts, the pride in the leadership of the church and their arrogance as believers. Paul even made the astonishing pronouncement to "... hand this man over to Satan so that the sinful nature (fleshly nature) may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 5:5 NIV
And the third enemy was the devil. He was coordinating everything for the destruction of the church and was making sure that all went according to his plan. Paul says, "...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12 NIV. The Corinthian church was in the throes of a spiritual battle for their souls, but they were unaware of it.
Paul gave three very clear commands to this body of believers, 'Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.'
1 Corinthians 16:13 -14. In these verses, he described to the Corinthians what their attitude should be in the face of these challenges. In the modern church, we need to take a similar attitude.
This week, we will look at one of these three commands Paul gave:
1. Be on your guard.
The literal translation is watch or be watchful. It is a one-word imperative and it was critical that they did it. The word is "... a military metaphor derived from the duty of those who are stationed as sentinels to guard a camp, or to observe the motions of an enemy."
The Apostle Paul was telling them to take a militant attitude to their spiritual lives - guard your spiritual lives. He did not want them to merely treat the symptoms, but also the cause, to pay attention to their spiritual lives and their knowledge of God. Their lack of spiritual watchfulness was the foundation of the Corinthian church's sinful condition.
This watchfulness is not just an individual thing. While I have responsibility for myself, we are a company of Christian soldiers and we must watch over each other's lives.
Unless this simple one-word instruction was followed, everything Paul had told them would be to no effect. It is not a need to merely know the facts and have the right behaviours.
But, what about us? Shouldn't we be watchful, especially in these last days when the Bible states that "... some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits?" 1 Timothy 4:1b NIV. One of the biggest laments for the modern church is that we are asleep, we have allowed these three spiritual enemies to creep into the Church and create havoc in the Church. So, we too should follow Paul's advice to be watchful.
Reflection questions: Are you spiritually aware? Are you being vigilant about the spiritual attacks in your church? How is your focus? Have you allowed error to creep in over time - a little tolerance here, a little tolerance there!
Join us again next week as we look at the steps to train ourselves to be watchful and Paul's other commands to the Corinthians.