The Bible frequently speaks of Satan and demons. Yet many Christians today are unaware of the open battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. What is the biblical teaching on spiritual warfare? How can we extinguish the “flaming darts” (Eph. 6:16) of the “cosmic powers” and “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12) that bombard us?
Bible Gateway interviewed Sam Storms (@Samuel_Storms) about his book, Understanding Spiritual Warfare: A Comprehensive Guide (Zondervan, 2021).
How much does the Bible talk about Satan, demons, temptation, and oppression and why is that important?
Sam Storms: The Bible addresses these issues far more frequently than many believe. The title “Satan” (the adversary) is used some 52 times in the Bible, most in reference to the enemy of our souls. “Devil” is used 35 times, and there are, of course, numerous other names and titles predicated of Satan: the god of this age, the evil one, the prince or ruler of demons, the destroyer, the tempter, the deceiver, the old serpent, the great dragon, the ruler or prince of this world, just to mention a few. Jesus himself referred to “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
Demons are mentioned numerous times, either as evil or unclean spirits, or with the distinctly Pauline terminology of principalities or rulers, authorities, powers, dominions, thrones, and world rulers.
It’s important we know who our enemy is because Paul tells us that our fundamental battle is not with human beings (“flesh and blood”) but with Satan and the demonic forces that do his bidding (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Why do people scoff at the idea that Satan is real and active, and why do you take it seriously?
Sam Storms: They scoff for several reasons, such as: the caricatures of Satan in modern culture (the result being that only uneducated simpletons and religious fanatics would believe in a devil), insulated lifestyles of the western world in which few believe they’re under demonic attack, a materialistic worldview that minimizes, if not denies, the reality of the spiritual realm, and widespread ignorance of what the Bible says.
I take the existence and activity of Satan and his demons quite seriously because Jesus did (Matthew 4, 12, 25, etc.). I also take Paul seriously in such texts as 2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:10ff.; Col. 2:13-15; 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:9-10; as well as what we see from Peter (1 Peter 5:8; cf. James 4:7) and especially John who reminds us that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:18).
Who is Satan, how does he act, and why is he dedicated to promulgating evil?
Sam Storms: Satan is a fallen, rebellious angelic being. When he fell and how are not described explicitly in Scripture (there is considerable doubt as to whether Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are talking about Satan and his fall). He is a liar, a murderer, a deceiver, a tempter, and has as his primary goal resistance to and the thwarting of God’s primary goal (namely, the spread of the glory of God in all the earth), a goal he will never achieve. He’s not the opposite and equal of God, who alone is all powerful and all knowing, but is, perhaps, the opposite and equal of Michael, the Archangel. That being said, Michael prevails over Satan, by virtue of the redemptive work and resurrection of Jesus (Revelation 12:7-12).
He’s dedicated to promulgating evil because he’s the essence of evil. He hates God and works tirelessly to thwart God’s work in the earth, an effort that will ultimately fail and result in his being cast eternally into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: An Interview with Sam Storms]
What are territorial spirits?
Sam Storms: Territorial spirits are demons who were assigned by Satan to influence specific national, geo-political entities on earth. We find explicit evidence for this in Daniel 10.
What is spiritual warfare?
Sam Storms: Spiritual warfare exists on several levels. First of all, it’s the rebellion and opposition of Satan and his demons to God. Second, it’s the conflict that’s ongoing between Satan and his demons and the holy angels who do God’s bidding. Third, it’s the conflict between Satan and his demons and Christians individually or the church corporately. It’s this third dimension of spiritual warfare that’s most relevant to believers, as Paul makes clear in Ephesians 6:10-17.
The aim of the enemy is to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of believers concerning God’s goodness and faithfulness. He works to bring disunity to local churches (2 Cor. 2:11), blinds the minds of the unbelieving lest they should believe the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4-6), and seeks to deceive Christians into believing that sin and idolatry can do for their souls what God either cannot or will not do.
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Why Is Spiritual Warfare a Continuing Struggle?: An Interview with Havilah Cunnington]
Why do you say Christians are not automatically immune to attack from the demonic realm?
Sam Storms: We know we’re not automatically immune because of the multiple warnings in Scripture to be on our guard, such as John 17:15; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:13-15; Eph. 6:10-17; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:1-4; and 5:18. These warning would not be relevant if Christians were insulated against attack and demonic deception.
How should Christians act knowing that Satan is their enemy?
Sam Storms: We should not respond with fear, for as John tells us, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). But neither should we respond with arrogance and presumption. We must avail ourselves of the armor of God and be on the alert to Satan’s schemes.
What is warfare prayer?
Sam Storms: Warfare prayer is prayer specifically directed to God for extraordinary power, insight, wisdom, and strength to resist Satan’s schemes. It’s also that expression of prayer called for when dealing with someone who is demonized and in need of deliverance. This is clearly what Jesus had in mind in Mark 9:25-29 (esp. v. 29).
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Spiritual Warfare Questions Answered]
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Sam Storms: Two texts compete in my heart (in a good way!) for being my favorites: Psalm 16:11 and Zephaniah 3:17. The former is precious to me because it gives me the reason why pursuing God rather than the world, the flesh, and the devil, is the wisest approach to life, an approach that brings the greatest degree of spiritual joy and satisfaction. The latter is precious to me because it awakens me to the truth of God’s delight in me as his child, a delight so intense that God quite literally sings over me!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Sam Storms: Extremely helpful, instructive, and easy to navigate.
Understanding Spiritual Warfare is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Sam Storms is lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is also the founder and president of Enjoying God Ministries (www.samstorms.org) and serves on the council of the Gospel Coalition. Dr. Storms earned his BA in History from the University of Oklahoma in 1973, a ThM in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1977, and a PhD in Intellectual History from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1984. Before coming to Bridgeway Church, Sam served as visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Sam and his wife of 49 years, Ann, are the parents of two daughters and grandparents of four. Sam is the author or editor of 35 books, among which are Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life, Understanding Spiritual Gifts: A Comprehensive Guide, and Understanding Spiritual Warfare: A Comprehensive Guide, A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin, The Language of Heaven: Crucial Questions about Speaking in Tongues, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, The Singing God, and The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts. Sam is also the General Editor of the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible.
If there is a central and all-consuming passion in Sam’s heart, it is for the convergence of Word and Spirit in the lives of God’s people and the ministries of the local church. He has devoted his life to equipping followers of Jesus to eagerly embrace both the functional authority of God’s written Word and the full range of miraculous gifts of the Spirit, all to the glory of God in Christ. Sam longs to see Christian men and women who are intellectually exhilarated by complex biblical truths, yet unafraid to give public expression to deep emotional delight and heart-felt affection for Jesus.
Sam believes that the urgent need of the Church today is for theologically sophisticated followers of Christ who are hungry for the revelatory gifts of the Spirit, while always subject to the final authority of the written text of Scripture. You can gain access, free of charge, to all of Sam’s written work by visiting his website and blog at www.samstorms.org.
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