The Bible teaches “For we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” -Ephesians 6:12
It is clear that the work of expanding the kingdom of God and living the life that is Christ centered is a spiritual affair, and not merely an intellectual pursuit as we seek to provide apologetic responses to various forms of unbelief. The spiritual element involves rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil such that our defense must begin with a knowledge of this fact. When we engage unbelief, we are not merely engaging in intellectual combat, but spiritual combat as well.
This being said however, we want to avoid two errors that Christians often fall prey to. Spiritual warfare can become over-emphasized and under-emphasized. Unfortunately there are many Christians who tend to over spiritualize things and attribute every obstacle and situation as a plot of the devil. These are the folks that find demons hiding under every rock, sitting in every pew, and influencing every little thing that encompasses human experience. This is a danger and among other things, it can become an excuse for not taking responsibility for one’s own spiritual decisions and attitudes. We cannot blame Satan for every sin we fall into. I have often said that there is enough evil in the heart of man that he is likely to sin even if the demonic realm is not actively involved. Now that being said, I want to be careful, since the scriptures clearly describe the unregenerate man as being enslaved and held captive to do the devil’s will (2 Timothy 2:26). So there is an element of truth to notion that the unsaved man is enslaved to his sin, and to Satan. However, one who is regenerate and is firmly positioned in Christ, is not in such bondage. And while a Christian can be afflicted and influenced by the demonic realm, the believer is no longer enslaved as he or she was prior to knowing Christ. Hence, the struggle for holy living may involve spiritual warfare against the demonic realm, and/or spiritual warfare against the weakness of one’s own flesh. And when one falls in sin due to the weakness of the flesh, this is not always due to demonic influence, hence one must work to not fall prey to an unhealthy and unbalanced perspective concerning spiritual warfare.
On the other hand, a believer can fall prey to an under emphasis of the importance of spiritual warfare. This often happens to folks who tend to be a bit more on the intellectual side. There are always rational and logical explanations for things such that there is no room for spiritual influence and/or acknowledgment of the hand of the devil in the various conflicts and struggles one may confront. It is one thing to over-emphasize the spiritual element, but it is quite foolish to completely ignore the reality and the schemes of the Evil One. A balanced Christian life is one where the enemy’s presence is acknowledged but not focused upon. The believer acknowledges the reality of the powers of this world, but his eyes are ever on Christ, “for greater is he that is in me, then he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Hence, as we seek a balance in how we perceive the reality of spiritual warfare, let us “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10).