- Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Everyone knows that the institution of marriage is under attack today. From every corner, barrage after barrage is being fired against God's plan for marriage. But the one ultimate source of the attack is often overlooked. For the war against, as well as within, the institution of marriage is most fundamentally a spiritual warfare. While avoiding on the one hand the extreme that spiritual warfare is nothing and on the other hand that it is everything, we must still confront the reality of such a conflict and its attack on our marriages.
The Enemy's Attack Against Marriage
The first shots fired against marriage occurred in the very beginning. In Genesis 1-2 God created a perfect universe, a perfect environment, and then placed our first parents into that magnificent environment: a beautiful garden, a two-becoming-one marriage, and a daily walk with God the Creator Himself. Who could ask for anything more? But into this perfect scene the Evil One descended, casting doubt about God's sincerity, care, concern, and provision (Gen. 3). And down through the centuries, his tactics haven't changed. That is why Jesus called Satan "a murderer from the beginning, . . . a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44) and "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31). The Enemy's attack is focused against the Triune God, but in order to effectively accomplish such an audacious assault, he focuses on God's people in general and the Christian home in particular.
For example, after the Apostle Paul had laid out all of the various relationships to which God calls His people, including marriage and family (Eph. 4:1-6:9), he pointed us to the ultimate undermining force behind all of the conflicts we encounter in these relationships:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:10-12).
You see, there is an invisible warfare going on all the time. And if the Enemy's assaults are successful, then our marriages will not reflect the image of God, reproduce a godly heritage, nor reign with God in His kingdom enterprise. So then our primary struggle is not primarily with our spouses, it is with the spiritual forces arrayed against God and His people in the invisible sphere of spiritual realities. God's ancient foe is at work day and night, seeking to undermine and overthrow all the good things that God is trying to accomplish in the world. This Enemy of our souls launches his total arsenal against our marriages in order to divide and conquer, seeking to prove to the onlooking world that God is a fraud and that His program of love and grace is really a sham and will ultimately end in complete ruin. But although he may have the latest word in this warfare, God alone will have the last word!
Our Defense Against the Enemy
What is our defense against this malevolent onslaught aimed at our marriages? First, from the divine perspective, Satan has already been defeated and he knows it. When our Lord died on the cross, was raised from dead three days later, and then ascended back into heaven, the authority and power of the Devil were utterly and completely destroyed (cf. John 12:31; Col. 2:15; etc.). We await the Second Coming of the Lord to carry out the final execution of this Enemy and all of his forces (cf. Rev. 20; etc.). In the meantime, the Devil has become quite a poker player, always seeking to bluff us into believing his lies and deceptions. But all we have to do is call his bluff.
So, from the human perspective, we must take our stand for God and against the Enemy (i.e., by calling his bluff):
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Or in the words of the Apostle Paul, "Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Eph. 6:13). Our greatest defense in this spiritual war is merely "to resist," that is, to call his bluff! Under divine inspiration, three biblical writers all agree (James, Peter, and Paul): "Resist"! But, specifically, how do we do this in our marriages? Again, the Apostle Paul lays it out in Ephesians 6:14-18:
(14) Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. (18) With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
So how do we daily put on each of these vital pieces of armor in our marriages?
1. First, we must gird our loins with truth (14a). No marriage can survive the daily onslaught without putting on the belt that holds all of the other pieces of armor in place. Truth is our marital integrity and faithfulness. Our commitments to God and our mates, reflected in our marriage vows, gives us the freedom to overcome the Evil One.
2. Then we must put on the breastplate of righteousness (14b). This is the sanctifying righteousness or holiness that we are to practice in our marriage on a daily basis. Without it our hearts and lives are vulnerable to the worst attacks of the Enemy.
3. Then we must fit our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (15). This refers to the stability and peace that our marriage gains from a correct understanding and sharing of the good news of the gospel. Peace reigns in a Christian marriage when we commit ourselves to knowing and sharing the gospel, when our home is a refuge and center of ministry for the lost of this world.
4. Then we are to take up the shield of faith (16). When a marriage is built on a faith-based relationship rather than a performance-based relationship, the flaming arrows of the Enemy are quickly snuffed out. By accepting my mate by faith as God's perfect provision for my life, I free her or him up to become all that God desires her or him to become. Then, and only then, do we remain untouched by the arrows of insecurity and affliction.
5. Then we are to put on the helmet of salvation (17a). When a couple knows and embraces both the present security of their salvation and the future hope of their final deliverance (1 Thess. 5:8), then they will be protected from all of the assaults against their minds and wills. It is the Lord's protection from all of the Devil's mind games and head-trips.
6. And then we are to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (17b). The only offensive weapon that we have for our marriage is God's Holy Word. When a couple memorizes, proclaims, and applies the Word of God against specific attacks on their marriage, the Enemy is slashed to pieces and must flee the field of battle, wounded and defeated.
7. And finally, we must bring all the armor to bear against the Enemy with a life of committed prayer-praying together (18)! For our marriages to be victorious in spiritual warfare, we must commit ourselves to persistent and corporate prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit. Without this kind of committed prayer, all of the rest of the pieces of armor will fall to the ground, leaving us vulnerable to attack and utter defeat. This is where most Christian couples lose the battle! A prayerless marriage is a powerless marriage. And a powerless marriage is a winless marriage.
Your Own Marriage Warfare
In light of God's desire and ability to give us victory in the spiritual warfare in our marriages, prayerfully consider the following questions:
1. What kinds of attacks has the Enemy launched against your marriage in recent days?
2. How did you respond to these attacks? How should you have responded to them?
3. How can you begin to put on the full armor of God this week? Be specific. Why not pray about it right now?
© 2004 Christian Family Life
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