For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).
Spiritual warfare–It is a often neglected reality, and it is a reality for which our post-Enlightenment minds are ill-prepared. It is a reality that encompasses us, and one in which we move incessantly, though we do not see it and do not acknowledge it. It is a reality that Martin Luther conversely knew all too well, as he hurled ink wells at his spiritual adversaries who sought to destroy him and the Gospel for which he stood. It is a reality that is as real today as it ever has been, whether we perceive it and choose to acknowledge it or not.
The Adversary on the one hand is an impotent foe, for he has no power of his own but only has that power which is granted to him and creates nothing but twists all things that God has spoken forth. On the other hand, since that which he twists is the very Word of God, his power is great indeed, for the power of the Word is great. It is with this power that he deceived our first parents, slithering about and twisting the Word of God so that both fell without much resistance. It is in this manner that he tempted our Lord in the wilderness, using various Scriptures and twisting them in malicious hope that the One who spoke them forth would not remember what he himself had spoken.
Yet in spite of their designed malevolence, the Adversary and his minions are but handmaids in the hands of God Almighty and therefore are at all times used for his holy and Providential purposes. In the case of the the righteous Job, God used Satan to demonstrate the greatness of his righteousness over that of Job’s and thereby brought him to a right understanding of who he was in respect to God. In the case of Christ, the trials put forth by the devil demonstrated the superiority of Christ over his foe even in the time of Christ’s greatest weakness. In the case of the apostle Paul, a demon was even assigned to him by God so that the apostle would be spiritually afflicted to humility and thereby be forced to cry out, “Your grace is sufficient for me!”
Therefore, whether we are afflicted by God or by demons, if we are God’s children, we are done so for our good and for his glory. For the better among us, God’s kindness leads us to repentance and his love grips our hearts and binds us to him. For the worse among us, God might choose, in his grace, to afflict us spiritually through spiritual adversaries so as to show us the darkness of our own souls and our radical inability. And through such darkness, God, if he is abundantly gracious, might yet grant repentance again to the worst among us.